Graduation day came early for senior Kyle Waznis, who completed his degree this spring but participated in December’s commencement ceremony to ensure his father could witness the milestone.
Waznis’ father, Jim Pruett, learned in October that he had an aggressive tumor the size of a tennis ball in his brain. Pruett was given only few months to live. Waznis quickly did the math and came to an awful realization: His father wouldn’t live long enough to see him walk at commencement.
That sorrow was quickly erased as faculty and staff partnered on Waznis’ behalf. Their intervention started when Waznis shared his situation with Penelope Long, a School of Communication faculty member and director of advisement.
Long reached out to University Registrar Jess Ray ’91, M.S. ’95, to see if Waznis could walk in the December commencement so that his dad could be there. Ray said yes. The decision was especially meaningful to Waznis, as it was his dad who insisted he earn a degree.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here,” Waznis said.
While his father’s mental state had declined since the diagnosis, Pruett was able to make it through the whole December ceremony. The best part of the day was when Waznis joined his parents after the event.
His dad, who could no longer speak full sentences, told him: “I’m so proud of you.” The cancer had already robbed the family of so many memories of shared life events that would never happen.
“I thought I’d lose graduation too,” Waznis said. “But they gave me one more weekend.”
“In the grand scheme,” said Ray, “we didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.”