Student veteran finds inspiration in ‘bleeding purple’


photos by Sierra High / Photo Editor

Chemistry major David Sackett is the speaker for the College of Letters and Sciences and Education and Professional Studies ceremony.

Emily Lepkowski, News Editor

Twenty nine year-old nontraditional student David Sackett came to UW-Whitewater because of his brother but stayed because of the people.

The California native’s dream was to go to Berkley, however, in giving Whitewater a ‘shot,’ Sackett found his way at UW-W and will now be giving the commencement speech for the Letters and Sciences and Education and Professional Studies ceremony at 3.p.m. on May 13.

Sackett served in the Navy for six years, navigating submarines, where he said it matured him but also served as another job to get to this point.   

Sackett recalled his first Plan-It-Purple day not knowing a single thing about UW-W.

“People throughout the day were like ‘are you ready to bleed purple, I want you to bleed purple’ and I’m like this is too much, like what,?” Sackett said. “No one explained it.”

Through Sackett’s time at UW-W he has come to discover what it means to ‘bleed purple,’ which he will focus on in his commencement speech.  

He explains bleeding purple as the extra time and effort that students and faculty put into campus while doing their jobs, be it as a student or a teacher.

“Everyday I’m inspired,” Sackett said. “People in the navy gave up sacrifices and did their job, but here, there’s a different kind of job.”

Sackett said that people downplay themselves but it’s their life.

Retired biology department staff member Terrie Parenteau, also known as the “Mom of Upham Hall” inspired Sackett’s love of community service.

Parenteau described Sackett as someone she could always rely on.

“I hired him for the computer labs and I never had to worry about a thing,” Parenteau said. “That kind of foresight and cooperation is key and even though we saw a lot of students like that, that’s something that makes non-trad more valuable.”  

Sackett described her as always looking out for the students on campus.

“She [Parenteau] would come and make meals in the biology office and whether kids needed a meal or a quick snack, that was really cool,” Sackett said.

Sackett said Parenteau gave everything she could and was inspired when she started her own volunteer group called ‘We Care’ to make things like dresses and backpacks for young kids.  

Sackett himself got heavily involved in community service through greek life and tutoring.

Whether it was in the navy or his semester at the University of Wisconsin-Superior before joining the military, Sackett always saw community service as an obligation.

He even described fighting his friends for the bill when he takes them out to dinner from time to time, since he is paid to go to school under the GI Bill.  

“If I can give a friend a meal, it might make his day a little better,” Sackett said.



Sackett started tutoring a introductory chemistry course where he said seeing light bulbs go on for others, clicked for him.

Immersing himself in the sciences, Sackett worked as a biochemistry researcher where he manipulated protein molecules found in the body’s immune system to work more effectively with the blood thinner Heparin. The work was published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, with the hopes the new discovery can aid cancer patients survival.

“People think chemistry and they think Breaking Bad and Walter White. That was a good series, but it’s more than that,” Sackett said. “It’s so much more, it’s helping people and making life changes that someone might be able to live longer down the line.”

Sackett is moving back to the California Bay Area after graduation with two job offers, but says he is holding out for a better offer to see what’s out there.

“I’m gonna go try the job force for a little bit and see if I can’t find that exact passion,” Sackett said.

Putting his PhD on the backburner, Sackett will be enrolled in the online MbA program at UW-W in the fall.



In high school, Sackett said his GPA was so bad he couldn’t walk in graduation. He also was not interested in walking at UW-W’s ceremony, but his family convinced him to walk so they could see him.

At that point, Sackett said if he was doing it, he might as well try, so he started the commencement speaker process.

“I walked in and I shook everyone’s hand and introduced myself and it kind of set everyone off,” Sackett said. “They’re used to running it and I kind of took it away from them.”

Sackett was the last one notified and accepted the speaker position on the spot.

“I didn’t get to walk and now I’ve got people flying in for my graduation. I never thought people cared that much,” Sackett said.

Parenteau will also be attending the graduation ceremony to see Sackett speak.

“They’re family to me and they consider me family as well,” Parenteau said.

More information on the ceremonies can be found at