Former Governor Paul Cellucci dead at 65

Loses battle with ALS; leaves legacy of raising funds to unlock the disease

June 08, 2013


cellucci-paulFormer Massachusetts Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci, a devoted public servant who dedicated the final chapter of his life to raising funds to support the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s research into a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), died June 8, 2013 at his home in Hudson, surrounded by family, from complications of the disease. The announcement was made by UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael F. Collins, MD, on behalf of the Cellucci family. Gov. Cellucci was 65.

The 69th governor of Massachusetts and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada announced in January 2011 that he had been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Soon after, he joined Chancellor Collins and renowned UMMS physician-researcher Robert H. Brown Jr, DPhil, MD, in launching the UMass ALS Champion Fund, supporting ALS research in Dr. Brown’s lab at the medical school. The campaign has raised nearly $2 million under Gov. Cellucci’s leadership.

“It is with deep sorrow that we acknowledge the passing of Governor Cellucci as a consequence of ALS. From the beginning, the Governor refused to allow his challenging diagnosis to prevent him from continuing his lifetime’s work of serving and helping others. Indeed, he made a conscious and inspiring decision to use his illness to raise awareness, galvanize action and spread hope,” said Collins. “In launching the Champion Fund, the Governor’s primary motivation and greatest satisfaction came from knowing that others, now and far into the future, could win the gift of more days as a result of the breakthroughs enabled through the support of his fundraising efforts.”

“Our sincere condolences are with Governor Cellucci’s family,” Collins said. “To his many friends and colleagues who were touched by his humanity — before and during his illness — the passing of Governor Cellucci is a moment of great sorrow, but also of inspiration. Because of him, many were inspired to support research into possible cures for ALS. Many more were inspired by his willingness to invest time and energy, which became more precious with each passing day, to help others.”

“The entire University of Massachusetts community is saddened to learn of the death of Governor Cellucci,” said University of Massachusetts President Robert L. Caret. “Governor Cellucci devoted his life to the cause of public service and worked to improve the quality of life for every citizen of the commonwealth.”

Cellucci is survived by his wife, Jan, their two daughters, Kate, and Anne, and four grandchildren, Rhys, Gabriel, Francesca, and Lucia. The Hudson native served more than three decades as an elected official and was proud of having never lost an election. After graduating from Boston College in 1970, he became involved in local government. He served as a selectman in Hudson while attending Boston College Law School. He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. He graduated from law school in 1973 and continued to serve in the Reserves, earning an honorable discharge at the captain's rank in 1978. In 1976, Cellucci was elected a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he served until 1984, when he began three terms in the state senate.

Cellucci was elected as Gov. William Weld’s lieutenant governor in 1990 and was sworn in as governor to complete the remainder of Gov. Weld's term of office in 1997. He was elected governor in his own right in 1998. In 2001, President George W. Bush named Cellucci U.S. Ambassador to Canada. In his role as ambassador, Cellucci served for four years to strengthen and grow the economic trading relationship between the United States and Canada, expedite border crossings for commercial and passenger vehicles, continue the integration of the North American energy market, and help resolve trade disputes. These responsibilities were particularly challenging to address following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when security immediately became the ambassador’s top priority.

When Cellucci left his post at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, he returned to work in the private sector focusing on U.S.–Canada initiatives that continued to strengthen the economies of these two nations, the largest bi-lateral economic relationship in the world. Gov. Cellucci joined the government relations consulting group ML Strategies in March of this year, following his longtime political ally, Gov. Weld, into the firm led by their former Secretary of Economic Affairs Steve Tocco. At the time of his passing, Cellucci was working on developing Canadian energy clients for the firm.

In launching the Champion Fund in 2011, Gov. Cellucci oversaw an effort that had immediate success and made important impacts on the ALS research being conducted in Brown’s laboratory at UMass Medical School. Gov. Cellucci enjoyed the support of prominent business and political leaders including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, all of the former governors of the commonwealth, former Lieutenant Gov. Timothy Murray and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Gov. Cellucci launched the Champion Fund during an on-field event at Fenway Park in May 2011. He played a role in securing countless major gifts, including a $500,000 donation from Biogen Idec.

“I commend Chancellor Collins and Dr. Brown for developing this important partnership with Governor Cellucci and know that the ALS research taking place at UMass Medical School — work that has already led to important breakthroughs — will continue and that the progress and advances we expect in the years ahead will serve as a fitting memorial to Governor Cellucci’s career and service,” President Caret said. “While we at the University of Massachusetts mourn the loss of a great friend, we are proud of our association with Paul Cellucci and will be proud to continue this vital work in his name.”

Additional information on the UMass ALS Champion Fund, as well as video, is available at www.umassALS.com.