East Bridgewater student wins award for Springsteen-themed thesis

William Pellegrino Jr. wrote his thesis on Springsteen.
William Pellegrino Jr. wrote his thesis on Springsteen.

MUSIC, HISTORY COMBINE TO WIN STONEHILL AWARD: William Pellegrino Jr. is a longtime fan of Bruce Springsteen and US history. So the 21-year-old resident of East Bridgewater combined those passions in his senior thesis at Stonehill College, a 48-page paper called “My City of Ruins: Bruce Springsteen and the American Reaction to Disaster.”

For his effort, Pellegrino won the sixth annual Peter R. D’Agostino Prize for Excellence in History at Stonehill. Supervised by history professor Shane Maddock, Pellegrino examined the themes and messages in Springsteen’s songs over a 10-year period.

“As a US history major, I found out contemporary history was my favorite, and I wanted to do something about recent history, something that’s not been done before,” Pellegrino said. “I chose the last 10 years because it’s so new, and I love Springsteen’s music.”


He studied how Springsteen’s approach to songwriting evolved in reaction to four major episodes in American history: The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; Hurricane Katrina; and the recession.

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“The music of Bruce Springsteen traces these disasters, both man-made and natural, as he explores in depth the outcomes and human reactions to these crises,” he said.

“Starting with 9/11, a world-changing event, he saw how people reacted and in many ways how society changed,” he said. “His album ‘The Rising’ explored that.”

Pellegrino said Springsteen’s music has often reflected war, and that the musician also did a whole cover album, “We Shall Overcome,” dedicated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which Pellegrino explores in his thesis.

In “Wrecking Ball,” Pellegrino said, the artist “looks at how [the recession] affected average citizens, how it affected people, not politics, but everyday people.”


Pellegrino also majored in math at Stonehill, which is what he will probably use for a career.

“History was a fun side project,” he said. “I know it’s weird having a combination major like history and math. For work, I’ll probably look at finance or business.”

And he won’t stop going to Springsteen concerts. He’s been to 15 so far, and would love to meet the musician long known as The Boss.

“Someone suggested I send him the thesis,” he said with a laugh, adding that the closest he’s gotten to Springsteen in the flesh “was a front-row center seat one time at a concert.”

BRIDGEWATER STUDENTS STUDY IN FRANCE: Michael Middleton and Daniel Tekin, both of Bridgewater and seniors at Boston College High School, recently joined the school’s summer immersion program in Lyon, France. They spent three weeks living with French families; taking classes at Centre Saint Marc, the Jesuit high school of Lyon; and learning the city’s history. They finished up with a three-day trip to Paris.


HANSON SINGER WINS CONTEST: Kristen Merlin of Hanson won the “Outside the Box” singing competition, and will perform at the free performing-arts festival of the same name in Boston, which runs July 13 through 21 on Boston Common and City Hall Plaza. Merlin was among several performers who auditioned for a panel of judges that included Grammy winner and top-selling country artist Bryan White.

The goal of the competition was to find an artist to perform with White, but Merlin apparently so impressed the panel they gave her a solo during the festival. She has played local clubs in Boston and the South Shore for the past several years. She will join more than 200 performers at the inaugural festival.

For information on the event, visit

FOXBOROUGH MAN JOINS VOLUNTEER EFFORT: Foxborough resident Pat Gover was part of a volunteer group that helped at the Victory Program’s ReVision Family Home in Dorchester recently, working alongside Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger and former Celtic Walter McCarthy. Work included painting the halls and common areas, doing minor repairs, building picnic tables and planter benches, and redecorating.

The effort was part of Sun Life Financial’s annual Community Care Day Friday. The company has been a corporate partner of the Celtics for three years, and last year acquired the rights to the Sun Life Courtside Club, the team’s primary VIP hospitality venue at TD Garden.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth has received two donations from the estates of Plymouth residents. The first was $80,892 from the estate of Gladies King, who named Habitat a cobeneficiary of her Charitable Reminder Trust. She was an early supporter of Habitat and was a member of its first family selection committee. The second donation was a box truck from the estate of Rodney MacDonald, whose sister and mother made the donation on his behalf.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@