Emily Gillis is set to graduate for Suffolk University Law School in Boston this coming Saturday. Emily’s law school journey has been different from most of her peers, her father, Joseph Gillis Jr., has taken her to every single class throughout her three years as a law student. Gillis was born with spastic-quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and uses a power chair to get around.
Joseph Gillis would drive his daughter to her stop on MBTA’s Red Line everyday, often waiting patiently for hours between Emily’s classes, pick her up from the stop and drive them back to the apartment they shared together in Whitman, Massachusetts. He would often accompany Emily to her classes, helping to set up and break down her computer and would wait for her between classes, making sure she had everything she needed. When Emily was denied an aide for both school and at home, her father jumped at the chance to help his daughter succeed, already knowing how to navigate Boston, it was a perfect fit. “There are no words to describe what my dad has done for me.”, Emily says.
This incredible moment is about her hard work, her dedication and the support of her dad. When asked why he went to such great lengths, Joseph Gillis replied: “I think every parent would have done the same thing if they had the chance- “I’m just glad I had the opportunity to do so.” Emily graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Criminology in 2010; she has known she wanted to become a lawyer since her freshman year of high school. Those at Suffolk Law took notice of her father’s unwavering support, Associate Dean of students, Ann McGonigle Santos said “…He has given Emily a gift to thrive and lay the foundation for her to become an attorney in whatever field she pursues.” On Saturday, she will have a full cheering section, including her mother, Mary, who’s been battling cancer for the last few years and her younger sister, Kimberly.
For both Emily and Joseph, this is the end to what Emily calls a “bittersweet” journey and a future full of great experiences that await her.
From all of us here at UCP: Congratulations, Emily! And best of luck with whatever path you choose to follow!
Special Thank you to Tony Ferullo from Suffolk University’s Office of Public Affairs, CBS Boston and the Boston Globe for helping to contribute to this blog post.