2023 Outstanding Alumni Award Recipient and Faculty Hall of Famer Celebrated

Tufts University Veterinary Alumni Association recognizes two distinguished individuals
A man wearing glasses holds an award, flanked by his son and wife.
2023 Cummings School Faculty Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. Stefano Pizzirani (center), with son Teo and wife Federica Maggio, the veterinary ophthalmologist at TuftsVETS. Credit: Anna Biller, Tufts University

The Tufts University Veterinary Alumni Association (TUVAA) recently recognized Lorraine O’Connor, V88 (she/her), as its 2023 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient and inducted retiring professor Dr. Stefano Pizzirani (he/him) into its Faculty Hall of Fame at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Outstanding Alumna Lorraine O’Connor, V88

The chief veterinarian in the Division of Animal Health of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, Dr. O’Connor has served the Commonwealth for more than two decades, including the last nine years as Massachusetts’ state veterinarian.

“She has steered farmers and pet owners through numerous animal health and public health emergencies and disasters,” wrote Scott Marshall, V91, in the nomination of O’Connor. “There have been national disease outbreaks such as Avian Influenza, as well as the day-to-day issues related to investigation of common disease outbreaks like canine parvovirus … She remains passionate, energetic, and devoted to her career path, even though public service is often thankless.” 

O’Connor was also recognized for developing emergency response plans and assisting in the development of laws and regulations to protect animals throughout Massachusetts.

In a written response, O’Connor shared “Thank you for the recognition. The award notification reminds me of when I received notice of admission to the vet school. Those first few Tufts classes were full of stars—brilliant, accomplished people that wanted to be veterinarians. Many of them would go on to do groundbreaking work. It has been a long-standing joke that I was fortunately admitted when the school somehow elected to let ‘mere mortals’ attend. It was an amazing opportunity that I have tried to utilize to its fullest. Thirty-five years after graduating, I am honored, grateful, humbled, and wondering if someone made a mistake.

“My entry into regulatory medicine allowed me to continue to be a ‘mixed animal practitioner’ and ‘mixed’ may not do justice to the varied incidents that are encountered. Bureaucracy is not my strong suit. Finding practical solutions to these varying situations is challenging and rewarding when it works. It is not often pretty, but it is important work. 

“I have been fortunate to work with many esteemed colleagues in the animal world at state, federal, and local levels, where we have had successes and other less successful outcomes. These are people that do whatever is necessary to protect animal health and welfare. I hope that this award is in recognition of the value of that important regulatory work and having the persistence to work hard every day to improve outcomes for animals and their humans. 

“I am still struggling that I might deserve this honor. I am comfortable that this work is important and deserving of recognition. I guess that’s another win for a mere mortal.”

Awarded annually since 2005, the Outstanding Alumni Award honors alumni for the good name they bring to Cummings School, the veterinary profession, and the community through their distinguished accomplishments.

Faculty Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Stefano Pizzirani

A native of Italy, Pizzirani served Cummings School for nearly 17 years as a full-time professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, before spending the last two years as an adjunct professor of ophthalmology.

Pizzirani was nominated for almost 20 years of teaching students and house officers in all departments of the Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals, the Hospital for Large Animals, and Tufts Wildlife Clinic.

In nominating Pizzirani, Anthony Alario, V10, wrote, “Stefano is a prime example of what we should all aspire to be. He is dedicated to acquiring new knowledge, asking questions, and pushing the limits of what we know as veterinarians that he has inspired countless graduates to go further than they thought was possible … He is fundamentally one of the most caring and compassionate individuals I have ever met [and] always goes out of his way to help students, patients, owners, and the community.”

In a written response to this honor, Pizzirani shared “The unexpected but greatly appreciated [recognition] is the iconic cap to the bottle of my life.

“Beyond the unsuccessfully suppressed narcissistic pride that this award may offer to the ego, I would like to nurture the philosophical concept that may be hidden behind.

“My last 10 years at least have been a discovery of the fundament that physics, mostly quantum mechanics, has on our reality. The entanglement principle never stops bedazzling me. The fact I can consider myself the trade union between some sort of knowledge and its transmission, in the way or content, to a group of previous students and the fact they recognize the value of this communication, closes a circle. We are part of the same energy and even if I have stopped working, the wheel moves forward.

“With the retrospective observation that comes at retirement, while trying to find the essence of a life, it is impossible to distinguish between events and pick the most essential. They are all connected, intertwined, and each of them are the cause and effect of others. 

“My professional life spanned 42 years, half of which I spent in Italy. The two professional phases are different in terms of settings and achievements but are still permeated with the same characteristics I like to remember as the engine of myself: curiosity, hunger for knowledge, entanglement with people and tasks, and a particular predisposition to challenge dogmas and finding new perspectives. I have been ecstatic in front of the complexity of life and never forgot to have fun while doing anything.”

The Cummings School’s Faculty Hall of Fame recognizes faculty members for their outstanding commitment to excellence in teaching. Since 2005, one or more faculty members have been inducted annually to recognize, encourage, and maintain the exceptional teaching at the school.