Recent Suffolk University Graduate Striving to Succeed


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Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

By Tony Ferullo

Overcoming challenges is a way of life for Ryan Barshop.

While growing up in Great Neck, New York, he had to battle a severe case of scoliosis. When he was 11, he was forced to wear a brace because of the significant curvature of his back. Four years later, he underwent spinal surgery, a procedure that required him to be in a cast for six months following the operation.

In addition, Barshop was born with a full-blown case of Tourette’s syndrome, a challenging disease that wasn’t discovered until he was 13 years old. He also suffered from depression and had difficulty learning and socializing with others. At his worst stage, he had to take more than 20 pills a day, seven days a week, to stabilize the uncontrollable rage burning inside him. He was 16 at the time.

“Very few people with my level of Tourette’s are able to make it this far,” said Barshop, a 2003 cum laude graduate of Suffolk University, where he majored in American history. “I sometimes feel that I have done the impossible.”

He deserves to feel proud of his accomplishment. Through hard work, discipline and perseverance, Barshop, 24, has fulfilled one of his life’s goals – to earn a college degree. Reflecting on his past, he knows what he has achieved is quite remarkable.

“With everything I’ve been through,” he said in a heartfelt tone, “it’s a miracle.”

He says school, particularly in his teenage years (he attended a special school in New York followed by a boarding school in Connecticut) was a tough and grinding process. In the fall of 1999, he transferred to Suffolk from Curry College, where he needed to spend a year improving his grades after high school.

Selecting Suffolk was a natural choice for him. “I was looking for a small school in a big city,” explained Barshop, who worked on Governor Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial campaign while attending college. “I like to sit in the front row in class. I didn’t want to be a number. I wanted to be known by my name.”

While at Suffolk, Barshop was involved in many different activities and organizations, including S.O.U.L.S. (Suffolk’s Organization for Uplifting Lives through Service), the Leadership Institute, the Resident Community Council and the Suffolk Journal (student newspaper). In 2002, he was the recipient of the History Book prize, given by the History Department. That same year, he was inducted into the Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society (one of the highest gpa requirements at Suffolk). In addition, he was a member of the Walter M. Burse Forensics Society and nominated for 2002 Senior of the Year.

Ken Greenberg has been a professor at Suffolk since 1978 and is Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Chairman of the History and Philosophy departments. He served as Barshop’s advisor and couldn’t have been more impressed with this driven, compassionate and hard working young man.

“Ryan Barshop is one of the best students I’ve ever had,” said Greenberg. “I have never seen anyone more determined to succeed. He is an incredible individual who was well liked by faculty and students.”

Being a people person is something that now comes easy for Ryan Barshop. He has traveled to 30 countries worldwide, volunteering his time in any way he can. Many of the places he has visited were underdeveloped and lacked even the most basic of western necessities.

“Volunteering makes me feel good about myself,” he said. “It also gives me independence, satisfaction and a chance to see the world at a young age.”

His boyhood dream was to become a pilot in the Air Force. Although his Tourette’s, which he says is now in control, ended that possibility, Ryan Barshop has focused his attention on helping others.

During the summer of 2000, when he found himself in Ghana, West Africa constructing an elementary school in an area, he says, “that seemed to be trapped in the 18th century,” Barshop’s goal has been to join the Peace Corps. After anxiously waiting 15 months, he was finally accepted.

He just arrived in the Philippines, where he has been assigned for two years. He will be working in various ways with at-risk youth.

“It makes me feel good to be able to help someone else,” said Ryan Barshop, who hopes to enter the field of law and perhaps politics one day. “I know the Peace Corps is going to be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m always ready for a good challenge.”

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