Xavier Magazine

Handing Out Hope

As a sophomore in high school, Jerry Sullivan planned on a career in national service. What he didn’t plan on was becoming a beacon of hope for fathers of children with Down syndrome. But that’s just what he became. Life’s funny that way.

After graduating with a commission from the University’s R.O.T.C. program in 1979, Sullivan launched a military career that ended in 2006. Along the way, he achieved the rank of colonel; picked up master’s and doctoral degrees; worked with N.A.T.O.; served as a strategic planner under Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs; was selected for the U.S. War College; and became an expert in the “stan” countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. He’s now a civilian Foreign Affairs Advisor for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Most important, though, he also became a father. And when his third child, Danny, was born with Down syndrome 13 years ago, Sullivan was crushed—as much by the way the doctor delivered the news cloaked in hopelessness, as by the news itself. He refused to give in, however, and wrote a series of articles on the subject, including, “Offering Hope, Not Wonts,” which was published inExceptional Parent magazine.

Now, 10 years after its initial publication, the article is still circulated by Downs syndrome societies internationally—most recently in New Zealand—and appears on the web site

And Danny? He now plays baseball, soccer and golf, and has competed in Special Olympics.

The message, Sullivan says, is simple: “If you go with your intuition and love, and a healthy helping of prayers, you can overcome predictions.”

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