Marymount College’s Office of the President announces Tom Sullivan as the 2011 commencement speaker. Graduation will be held on May 21. This is not Sullivan’s first visit to the campus. Sullivan was a featured, and very popular, presenter during the College’s fall 2009 Cultural Arts season.
According to actress Betty White who has worked with Sullivan, “What makes Tom stimulating is the feeling that he is speaking with you, not at you, says White. “ Soon you find yourself looking at commonplace things in a slightly different light. Before long you are relating his stories to your own stories-and seeing them with a new perspective and rekindled enthusiasm. Tom Sullivan’s passion is contagious.”
Tom Sullivan is an accomplished actor, singer, entertainer, correspondent, author and producer. Sullivan shares with his audiences and in his books that any negative can be turned into positive. Born prematurely in 1947, Tom was given too much oxygen while in an incubator. Though it saved his life, it cost him his eyesight. The “inconvenience” of being blind has never kept Tom Sullivan from competing in a world where he realized that to be equal, for him, meant that he must be better. Even as he may have had to change the rules slightly, he has proven that one need not be limited by a handicap, whether it is playing backyard baseball as a youngster or any activity he’s pursued. Today he is a marathoner, skier and golfer.
Having spent the early part of his career pursuing his ambition as a singer and composer, Tom started out playing the piano in summer resorts in New England. He eventually gained national prominence with appearances on The Tonight Show, a major recording contract and a steady stream of gigs in Las Vegas and resorts around the country. One very memorable highlight of his musical career was when he sang a moving rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the 1976 Super Bowl Game Bicentennial Celebration. Although music was his primary focus, Tom’s limitless energy and ambition would combine to lead him into a series of successes in the entertainment industry.
In 1975, Tom’s autobiography, If You Could See What I Hear, co-written with Derek Gill, took him on yet another journey, this time as an author. The story is an inspirational one of Tom’s childhood in Boston, his neighborhood friends and their antics, and lessons along with resulting wisdom from his family experiences. It is also a coming-of-age story of his school days, first at the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where he excelled in everything he attempted, through his college years at Providence College and then at Harvard. Ultimately, it is a true love story about his romance and marriage to his wife, Patty, and the beginning of a family that is to this day the most cherished part of his life.
As a special correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America, Tom became a regular morning fixture in millions of American homes. His touching and insightful reports gave many that “you can do it” bit of inspiration to start their day.
Tom went on to be nominated for two Emmy Awards and has acted on TV series, such as Designing Women, Highway to Heaven, Fame, M*A*S*H, Mork & Mindy and WKRP in Cincinnati, just to name a few. But to create the characters and fulfill the role of a blind man on prime time he also helped write and develop many of these stories.
Thanks to Tom’s public life, he has been privileged to become one of America’s most sought-after motivational speakers, communicating with over 3,000 corporations around the world. His message of hope is best expressed in his quote from his ESPN special, Superior Beings: “If extraordinary people can do impossible things, isn’t it reasonable to assume that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”