Massachusetts Governor Collapses at Commencement
May. 18, 1996
WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) _ Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld collapsed Saturday during commencement at Bentley College, but doctors said they found nothing seriously wrong with him.
The 50-year-old governor had just received an honorary doctorate of law when he fainted.
``He fell headfirst (towards the podium), but they caught him,'' said Bill Petras, a graduating senior who sat five rows back from the stage.
Weld was briefly unconscious, but was alert by the time he was lifted onto a stretcher and taken to an ambulance. The crowd applauded and Weld waved.
Moments before fainting, Weld had started shaking as he approached the podium, Petras said.
Weld, a Republican who is challenging U.S. Sen. John Kerry for his Senate seat in November, had been scheduled to give the keynote address at Bentley's undergraduate commencement, but never got a chance to speak.
``Right now, it looks like maybe the flu,'' said Pam Jonah, one of Weld's press aides, adding that he would stay in Deaconess-Waltham Hospital for 24 hours of observation.
Doctors said they performed an electrocardiogram, a chest X-ray and blood tests, but found no immediate cause for concern.
``With all this testing we have done, nothing acute is showing,'' said Dr. Rifat Dweik.
Dr. Mohammad Reda said Weld reported feeling under the weather for a couple of days, and he was sick to his stomach after collapsing.
Cardinal Bernard Law, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, visited Weld at the hospital for about 20 minutes.
``He looks good and he sounds good and has his usual sense of humor,'' Law said.
By late afternoon, Weld was in good spirits and asking for reading material, including books by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jonah said.
Jonah said Weld's wife, Susan Roosevelt Weld, a Chinese law scholar at Harvard University, was traveling in China. The governor did not call her immediately because he did not want to alarm her unnecessarily, Jonah said.
Kerry, a Democrat who faces a Weld challenge this November for his Senate seat, issued a statement Saturday: ``Teresa (Heinz, his wife) and I were very relieved to hear that Gov. Weld's illness does not appear to be serious. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.''
Other officials who called the hospital to express support included Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole; aides to President Clinton; U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., California Gov. Pete Wilson, New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.