The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

For many years now, bagpiper John Sullivan has led URI’s Commencement procession. Fully attired in highland regalia, including kilt and sporran, Sullivan marches ahead of the 50th Reunion Class, which is followed by the faculty and graduating seniors.

Indeed, Sullivan adds the poignant notes of the bagpipes at ceremonial events throughout the state, especially graduations. It is a rewarding and distinctive career.

Sullivan began playing the bagpipes at the age of eight, with his earliest lessons coming from his father. He attended the Gaelic College in Nova Scotia, where he was named Outstanding Student. He continued his studies with well-known instructors such as Bob Worrall, Reay MacKay, and James McIntosh, and was himself a faculty member of the Invermark School of Piping.

Sullivan competes at the open (or professional) level, the highest level a piper can attain. To date, he is the only piper who has received such status in Rhode Island. He has enjoyed a successful competitive solo piping career, winning prizes in both the United States and Canada, and is much sought after as both a performer and an instructor—several of his students have also been consistent prizewinners.

Returning to his roots, Sullivan revived the Rhode Island Highlanders Pipe Band in 1991 and served as pipe major for 14 years. He is currently a member of the Manchester (Conn.) Pipe Band, one of two top grade bands in the Northeast.

If you missed him this year, look for Sullivan on Sunday, May 18, 2008, when once again he will pipe URI’s newest graduates into the future.

Photo by Nora Lewis