The Final Step

Joan Kuetzer wanted to walk across the stage for her Ph.D. hooding ceremony in 1990. She had completed all coursework and her dissertation in cellular and molecular biology, but circumstances just didn’t work out. 

After graduation she went on to an illustrious career. She worked her way up to Vice President and Head of Integrated Solutions for Rare Diseases at Sanofi Genzyme. Sanofi Genzyme is the specialty care global business unit of Sanofi, focused on rare diseases. She has been with the company since 1998, and before joining the company in 1998, she completed post-doctoral research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School.

At a recent dinner with her children, Joan confided in them. “My biggest regret in life was that I never got to participate in the hooding ceremony,” Kuetzer said. Her daughter, Antonia Kuetzer, who had graduated with a degree in physics in May this year, set out to change that.

Covertly, she contacted several offices on UK’s campus to make sure that her mother would be able to participate in the December 2017 commencement. Joan's husband contacted her dissertation committee chair, professor emeritus Sheldon Steiner, who will be hooding her. It became a family affair.

Upon finalizing her mother’s participation in the fall hooding ceremony, Antonia announced it to her mother at her birthday dinner this year. “Antonia did it as a birthday present, and I cried because of how excited and anxious I was,” she said.

“My University of Kentucky (UK) degree has been absolutely fabulous,” she said. “I am so excited.”

Antonia thinks that her mother deserves this day. "It feels like an affirmation of everything that she's worked so hard for, and we're really proud."