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Stories of your support

A commitment to Worcester and UMass Chan students inspires a new scholarship fund from the Sleeper family

SleepersRecognizing UMass Chan Medical School’s importance to Worcester and excellence as a center of medical research and education, Michael and Carol Sleeper are longtime supporters. The family renewed their commitment this year by establishing the Michael and Carol Sleeper Family Fund, dedicated to student scholarships at the T.H. Chan School of Medicine.

Like UMass Chan, the Sleeper family story is deeply tied to Worcester. Michael’s father, Worcester-born Frank Sleeper, launched Imperial Distributors in 1939 out of a garage. As a pioneer in bringing non-food items such as medicines and beauty products to grocery store shelves, Imperial grew quickly, soon opening a warehouse on Winter Street.

Around the same time, Worcester was slowly coming down from its peak as a major industrial center. For over a century, a scrappy spirit of invention—and favorable transportation routes—had propelled the city’s prominence in manufacturing. Immigrants poured into the city to fill factory positions, building a rich culture of diversity that continues to this day.

While the landscape of Worcester’s commercial sector evolved following the city’s industrial era, Imperial continued to innovate and thrive. The city’s flame of invention remained, and seeds of renewal were planted. Notably, UMass Chan, the first and only public medical school in Massachusetts, opened its doors to students in 1970. The Worcester campus soon expanded to include a teaching hospital and growing clinical system.

Fast-forward to 2022. Imperial now operates from a 325,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art distribution facility on the site of the former U.S. Steel plant on Blackstone River Road. Under the leadership of Michael as CEO, Imperial employs over 600 people, including 400 people locally. As Michael states, “Imperial is fortunate to be based in the Northeast, where many family-owned and operated retail chains have done tremendously well. We’re also blessed to have an excellent team of people dedicated to our company and growth.”

Michael feels that while Worcester is the second largest city in New England, it maintains a “hometown feel” and deep sense of community. Carol adds that "This city enriches us all with exceptional cultural institutions, their programs, concerts and exhibits, diverse restaurants, and highly spirited sports teams.” Worcester’s excellent quality of life and vibrancy is celebrated by the Sleepers, who continue to live in the city where they raised their three children.

Meanwhile, in just 50 years UMass Chan has grown into a world-class medical school, with three graduate schools and an esteemed faculty that conducts almost $400 million in funded research annually. With UMass Chan Biotech Park as an anchor, the Medical School is in a strong position to drive the region’s burgeoning life sciences and health services sector.

Alongside the larger impact on the Worcester community, Michael and Carol are impressed with the Medical School’s continued focus on primary care education. “Our family is very rooted in Worcester, and we've been blessed to be able to support some important causes here,” Michael stated. “In establishing a scholarship fund, we felt strongly about an initiative that will have a significant, long-term impact.”

Supporting the education of medical students also speaks to the Sleepers personally; their son, Eric, and daughter-in-law Kristin are pediatricians on the North Shore. Kristin said that financial support in the form of loans and academic awards helped her during medical school and her residency. The Sleepers feel fortunate to be able to give other students the kind of support that helped Kristin achieve her dream of becoming a physician.