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Biology Major receives Max Cleland Award for Excellence in Public Service

MaxCleland Service Awards-copy

Pictured (l to r) with Max Cleland: Amber Finnicum-Simmons, first runner-up; Andrea Guedes, second runner-up and John Massey, winner of the Max Cleland Award for Excellence in Public Service.

‘Hero’ is a Greek word meaning “to protect and serve.” Stetson University has had her share of heroes and that service is at the core of the spirit that connects Max Cleland ‘64, Stetson’s Bonner Program and senior biology major John Massey, the second recipient of the Max Cleland Award for Excellence in Public Service. Cleland’s commitment to both Stetson and public service prompted Greg Sapp, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies, Marchman Chair for Civic and Social Responsibility and faculty advisor to Stetson’s Bonner Scholars Program, to ask Cleland to attend a training seminar involving the Bonner Scholars’ service in the community.

Cleland was all in. He gave his unqualified support. In a pay it forward scenario, Bonner Scholars train those who will come after them to provide continuity and momentum. Massey serves the uninsured at the Good Samaritan Clinic in the west side of Volusia County. Social change may be best sparked by those who have respect for those who must bring about change, or endure the persistence of the status quo. The catalyst enters and leaves with grace knowing that another will fill his or her role. Often that person who serves in turn will be a member of that particular community.

As most Stetson Hatters know, Cleland is a Stetson alumnus, class of 1964. He served in Vietnam where he was badly wounded, losing an arm and both of his legs. After a year of rehabilitation, he never hesitated to find ways to serve, becoming head of the Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter. Never hesitant to do whatever he could, his service included a term as United States Senator from the state of Georgia from 1997-2003.

Massey focuses not only on health issues, but also on empowering those he serves by teaching them skills for monitoring one’s own health and the health of others, and providing them with computer, financial and other foundational skills that will help the clients overcome the “systemic poverty” that he knows is keeping them from reaching their true potential.

“The students at Stetson University who are doing community service are doing powerful work,” Cleland said. “They are changing lives on a daily basis, and making the world a better place. I was inspired to establish this Award for Excellence in Public Service to give these students the recognition they need and deserve for doing the amazing work they’re doing every day.”

Cleland continues in non-profit as well as government service and is currently the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission under President Obama. Massey has been accepted to medical school and plans to serve as a primary care physician in rural, underserved regions of the United States and abroad.

“Max inspires us to get involved and make the world better even if the task seems impossible,” Sapp said. “I am thrilled for our Bonner students to get to know Max, a Stetson alumnus who has dedicated his life to community engagement and public service. The Cleland Award for Excellence in Public Service honors the work Max has done and continues to do, as well as the life-changing work our students do in the community.”