This Mom Received Her Own Degree After Helping Her Quadriplegic Son Through School

Over the last two years, Judy O'Connor has been attending every single class with her son, Marty, at Chapman University as he worked towards his master's degree.
Marty, 29, was paralyzed from the shoulders down after he fell down a flight of stairs in 2012, according to The Orange County Register. When he decided to pursue an MBA degree, Judy, a retired elementary school teacher, took on the role of his official note-taker — and on Saturday, they both received degrees from the university.
As Judy pushed her son's wheelchair across the stage to accept his degree, an announcement came over the loudspeaker to surprise her with her own honorary MBA.
"Mrs. Judith O’Connor has attended all the classes with her son Marty," the announcer said, according to KTLA. "She has taken notes and worked with Marty throughout his academic career."
According to the Register, it was Marty's idea to surprise his mother with her own honor.
"She’s been instrumental in the past two years," he told the Register. "There’s no way I would have achieved my level of success without her."
After Marty's accident nearly five years ago, he suffered a spinal cord injury that left all four of his limbs paralyzed, a condition known as quadriplegia. Though he was able to attend physical therapy and begin using a wheelchair, the accident still left him emotionally dejected.
"After I got hurt, I kind of thought everything was lost and I didn’t really have a future," he told the Register. "In the past two years, I’ve really found out how much I can still achieve. There’s new strengths that I have that I didn’t have before."
While Marty was able to use voice recognition software and other aids while in school, he couldn't take notes or hand-write his test answers. As KTLA reports, Judy was living in Florida at the time of Marty's accident but relocated to southern California, where he was living, in order to help him.
"As a mom, you just want to help your kids get through things," she told KTLA. "I always believed in him. I knew he could do it and I just wanted to have his back."
According to the Chapman University blog, Marty will continue a post-grad career with the help of a professional aide, and has a job lined up as head of corporate sponsorships for a youth action sports startup called DIVERTcity.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
Read these stories next:

More from Trends

R29 Original Series