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Graduation video completes mother’s dream

by Melissa Lacas
Public Relations
When fourth-year College of Dental Medicine (CDM) student Dan Pennella stopped by the college’s academic affair’s office several weeks ago, Amy Brubaker asked how his mother was doing.

Dr. John Sanders, right, presents Dr. Dan Pennella with a mock diploma.

Pennella’s mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and struggled to overcome the disease in hopes that she could watch her son graduate.  When Brubaker saw the expression on Pennella’s face and his revelation that his mother would not be able to make it to his graduation, she knew she had to help. She decided to take pictures of Pennella dressed in his graduation cap and gown so that his mother could watch her dream of seeing her son graduate from dental school. 
She contacted Anne Hantske, assistant to the dean and CDM Dean John J. Sanders, DDS, who were more than eager to help. While Sanders was putting on his commencement regalia to take pictures with Panella receiving his “diploma,” Brubaker and Pennella met in front of the dental school entrance and then went to St. Luke’s Chapel, one of Pennella’s mother’s favorite locations on campus. As Brubaker was taking pictures, MUSC President Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., happened to be heading back to his office and curiously approached Pennella in his regalia.
Once Greenberg talked to Pennella about his mother, he gladly joined in the photo shoot. Brubaker sent the images to Anne Thompson in digital imaging, who edited the photographs. After the photographs were complete, Greenberg decided that more needed to be done.
Greenberg contacted Sanders and Damon Amella, who creates production and video for the university. When Amella heard Pennella’s story, he collected all of the photos and put them on a video slide show. Tariq Javed, DMD, and James Knight, DDS, two of Pennella’s professors, joined several friends and classmates to comment on Pennella’s accomplishments for his graduation video. Amella put the video together, even adding mother and son's favorite song that would remind her of him, and gave it to him right before his flight to Texas to see his mother for the last time.
Pennella’s mother passed away shortly afterwards, but not before she happily and proudly watched the graduation video of her son’s accomplishments.
“Nobody stopped to even think about what they were doing,” Brubaker said. “It was second nature for all of these people to help Dan and his mother.”


Friday, May 15, 2009

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