Father of First Boy in Illinois with AIDS Recalls Welcome by Principal

Tom Graziano and Paul Nilsen

Tom Graziano and Paul Nilsen

WILMETTE, IL (December 7, 2015) — In 1986, when schools and parents around the country were fighting the admission of students with HIV, middle-school principal Paul Nilsen welcomed the first child diagnosed in Illinois with the disease.

The boy’s father, Tom Graziano, recently appeared on public radio station programs with Nilsen, a member of Winnetka Covenant Church, and shared what it meant for his adopted son, John, to be received warmly by the faculty, parents, and students.

Nilsen recalled the day Tom Graziano and his wife, Mary Lou, walked into his office to talk about John. “They thought maybe they should have brought a lawyer with them, but they didn’t need it because I said John would be educated in my school.”

During the broadcasts, Nilsen said that the students all were protective of John. If someone asked the children who in the class had AIDS, each one of them would say, “I do!”

The broadcasts can be heard on WBEZ and National Public Radio show “Morning Edition.”




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