This summer, Dean Sullivan spent over a week in Ethiopia visiting the community that he called home for many years. In this special conversation, the Wire caught up with him to hear more about his experience and explore the linkage between Rady and East Africa.
Wire: I understand that you returned to Ethiopia this summer. Can you talk about the nature of this trip and how you spent your time?
Dean Sullivan: My wife, Julie, and I went to Ethiopia this past July. As some of you know, I lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for nearly seven years, two of them as a Peace Corps volunteer. I adopted two children from Ethiopia – both of whom are now adults living in the States. This trip was to revisit a part of the world that had an immense influence on me. More importantly, it was to show Julie this important part of the world.
We spent about nine days in Addis Ababa. We had meetings with leadership at Addis Ababa University, the new head of the Peace Corps, the entire workforce of Project Concern International (headquartered in San Diego) and with Catholic Relief Services. And very importantly, we visited with the siblings of our adopted children. This was both valuable and enjoyable.
W: What has changed about life on the ground in Ethiopia since you served there in the Peace Corps?
RS: Addis Ababa has grown immensely. Ethiopia is still among the poorest nations in the world, with every imaginable health and economic concern. While there is political stability at this time, there still is political tension that permeates the population. Ethiopia is a nation with tremendous potential – it needs help along many dimensions to realize this potential.
W: What role does Ethiopia, and your experiences there, play in your thinking today?
RS: Ethiopia provided me with my first opportunity to be a volunteer, a community activist and an academic. It was that juncture in my life that defined what I do today.
W: The Rady community has a number of linkages to Africa. What opportunities do you envision for students and alumni to impact this part of the world?
RS: Ethiopia needs hope as well as help. It represents a part of the world where we as individuals and as a community can really impact lives. There are a number of possibilities for the Rady School. An example is a startup pharmaceutical company producing generic drugs for malaria, HIV/AIDS and more. This new company has a facility in place and is producing products. But it needs help in raising capital, in distributing and in achieving necessary regulatory approvals. This would make a superb set of independent studies. There are many fronts for engagement.
Below, Dean Sullivan poses with the natural family of his adopted children in front of the house he helped build 30 years ago.