Winter 2014

Rooted in Giving

A family steps forward to help students pursue medicine without acquiring crippling debt

By Brenda Conaway

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“We hope to continue the tradition of giving that our family has found so rewarding,” Lawrence Cetrulo says of the scholarship fund they established at the medical school. Photo: Kelvin Ma

Family traditions frequently start with one individual. For the Cetrulo family, many important ones began with Gerald I. Cetrulo II, M.D. He was a nationally acclaimed fencing master and prominent hand surgeon in New Jersey who inspired generations of Cetrulos to follow him into medicine and athletic achievement. He also inspired his incredibly close-knit, extended family to give back to those institutions that helped them attain academic and athletic success.

“The Cetrulo family has always been very loyal to our schools, and this has included financial support and promotion of athletics,” says Lawrence G. Cetrulo, M12P, a founding partner of the law firm Cetrulo LLP. “Dr. Gerald Cetrulo was my godfather [and uncle], and I essentially grew up in the same house with his son, Curt Cetrulo Sr., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine for more than 30 years. We remain very close, as are our sons, Curt Jr. and Nick Cetrulo, both of whom graduated from Tufts Medical School.”

Lawrence Cetrulo said the family wanted to honor the medical school and the accomplishments of Curt Sr., Curt Jr., and Nick “in a way that was in the tradition of the Cetrulo family.” To that end, the family has created the Curtis L. Cetrulo Sr., M.D., Curtis L. Cetrulo Jr., M.D., M99, and Lawrence Nicholas Cetrulo, M.D., M12, Scholarship Fund. The fund, which will be matched under the university’s ongoing Financial Aid Initiative, will help deserving students gain the opportunity to study medicine at Tufts.

Because Nick and Curt Jr. Cetrulo pursued their undergraduate studies at Harvard and Stanford, respectively, the scholarship will, when possible, support students who are alumni of those institutions. Another family member with Tufts connections, Curt Jr.’s brother Erik Cetrulo, F02, also contributed to the scholarship.

“We hope to continue the tradition of giving that our family has found so rewarding,” Lawrence Cetrulo says. The Financial Aid Initiative match was very important, he says. “It fit with our family’s desire to collaborate with Tufts in helping students achieve their academic goals without assuming crippling debt.”

The Cetrulo family story has its roots in New Jersey, in the early 1900s. “We all grew up in Newark. My father and his seven siblings all lived close together, so we grew up interacting with our aunts and uncles and cousins on a daily basis,” Lawrence Cetrulo says. 

Cetrulo siblings and cousins attended the same schools and competed in the same sports. The family would often get together on weekends and holidays. Summer traditions included vacationing together on the Jersey Shore, where adults and kids would enjoy beach outings and meals together. 

“We had a very rich family life,” Lawrence Cetrulo says. “The whole focus growing up was education and athletics. Our parents didn’t settle for anything less than excellence in both.”

The quest for athletic success resulted in several generations of Cetrulo fencing acclaim. Gerald Cetrulo was an outstanding fencer at Dartmouth and coach at Seton Hall University, and his brother, Dean Cetrulo, won a bronze medal in the 1948 London Olympics. Curt Cetrulo Sr. captained an NCAA championship fencing team at Columbia, and Lawrence Cetrulo was a three-sport athlete and three-time All-American fencer at Harvard.

The focus on academic excellence has also resulted in a long line of Cetrulo physicians. Like his grandfather before him, Curt Cetrulo Jr. is a renowned plastic surgeon, specializing in hand surgery. As a researcher and physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, he led the surgical team that performed the first hand transplant at MGH, on a survivor of the 2003 blaze that killed 100 people at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island. 

When Curt Jr. was at Tufts School of Medicine, he lived with Lawrence Cetrulo and his family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “I remember young Curt studying in our house while he was in medical school. He would invariably read himself to sleep in our living room,” Lawrence Cetrulo says. “We’d come down and put a cover over him or wake him and give him dinner.”

Lawrence’s son Nick was a high school student at the time, and decided to become a doctor largely because of his cousin. Nick Cetrulo, who is married to Kayla Wishall, M12, is in his third year of a general surgery residency at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

“We hope to encourage students to follow the same path that Curt Jr. and Nick did,” Lawrence Cetrulo says, “and in doing so, help Tufts School of Medicine, which did so much to help the Cetrulo family.”Brenda Conaway

For more information about endowing a scholarship through the Financial Aid Initiative, please contact Rebecca Scott, senior director of development and alumni relations, at 617.636.2777 or rebecca.scott@tufts.edu.

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