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Wellesley College professor to deliver Commencement address at Roosevelt University on Dec. 14

Posted: 11/02/2012
Susan M. Reverby, a medical historian and professor of women’s and gender studies at Wellesley College, will be the speaker and receive an honorary degree at Roosevelt University’s Dec. 14 Commencement ceremonies.

Reverby gained national attention for her groundbreaking research on the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study and for her discovery of unethical medical research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948.  Her scholarship led to public apologies on both issues by the United States government.

“Throughout her extraordinary career, Dr. Reverby has been a thought-leader and scholar whose work has had a profound impact on some of our country’s most disturbing actions,” said Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton.  “She is truly deserving of Roosevelt’s highest honor, a Doctor of Social Justice degree, honoris causa.”

Reverby will speak at both the 10 a.m. ceremony for graduates of Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies and the Heller College of Business and the 1:30 p.m. ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education. Both ceremonies will be in the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.

Reverby is an authority on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in which American public health officials, hoping to track progression of the disease, withheld treatment from hundreds of infected African-American sharecroppers in counties surrounding Tuskegee, Ala. She has completed two books on the study, Tuskegee Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and its Legacy.  In 1997, she helped successfully lobby President Bill Clinton to offer a public apology to the surviving men and their heirs.

While investigating research done in Tuskegee, Reverby uncovered documents detailing how Guatemalan prison inmates, mental patients and soldiers were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea from 1946 to 1948 to test the effectiveness of penicillin. This discovery prompted public apologies in 2010 from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Barack Obama.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, a Master of Arts in American Civilization from New York University, and a doctorate in American Studies from Boston University, Reverby became the first professor hired in women’s studies at Wellesley College.

During her 30-year tenure with the Massachusetts college, Reverby has served as a health policy analyst and women’s health activist. She was a consumer representative on the Food and Drug Administration’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices advisory panel, and was a member of the ACLU of Massachusetts board for nearly a decade. She has spoken internationally on gender, race, ethics and health care issues.