A loving mom who selflessly attended every college class with her quadriplegic son as he embarked on a successful quest to receive a Master of Business Administration degree was recently given the gift of a lifetime: a surprise MBA of her own.
Administrators at Chapman University in Orange, California, surprised Judy O’Connor with an honorary degree during the school’s commencement ceremony on Saturday after her 29-year-old son, Marty, went up on the stage to receive his hard-earned degree.
After O’Connor pushed Marty’s wheelchair up to the stage, an emotional graduation announcer told the crowd that O’Connor, too, would receive a degree due to her selfless decision to help her son achieve his goals, the Associated Press reported.
O’Connor — who handled the stunning surprise with grace — blew a kiss to the crowd, as everyone in attendance stood and cheered.
The loving mother had moved from Florida to California to help Marty earn his degree after he fell down a flight of stairs in 2012 and was left paralyzed. While his life had changed, his will remained strong.
Marty eventually decided to embark on his journey toward an MBA after looking for direction following his life-changing injury.
“After I got hurt, I didn’t know which end was up. I didn’t really have a direction. I was just dedicating myself to physical therapy five days a week,” he said. “While my body was in a better place because of that, mentally, I was just kind of lost. … I needed that mental challenge and wanted to add some professional value to myself.”
O’Connor helped her son with note-taking and with writing answers on exams — two key elements of the college experience that his injuries precluded; her sacrifice meant that Marty could recognize his dreams.
As it turns out, O’Connor is a retired elementary school teacher who described herself as a “geek” who loves attending school in a story published on the Chapman University website published before commencement unfolded.
As for her honorary degree, the grateful mom said she was shocked.
“I was totally blown away. I was trying to sit in the background,” she told KTLA-TV. “I was just helping my son.”
Marty told KTLA-TV that he’s elated that he was able to work with university officials to bestow the honor upon his mom.
“I was just so excited for her because she deserved it so much,” he said.
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