Mom Surprised With Honorary MBA After Attending Every Class With Quadriplegic Son

by Julie Scagell

He couldn’t raise his hand or take notes, so his mom did it for him.

There is little a mother would not do for her child. Judy O’Connor, mother of 29-year-old Marty, is the epitome of this, showing all of us just how important it is to show up for our kids every single day — no matter what life has in store.

O’Connor’s son became a quadriplegic after falling down a flight of stairs in 2012. He’d earned his undergrad degree from the University of Colorado just two years prior and was traveling internationally for a packaging industry company as a salesman until his fall changed everything.

He immediately began physical therapy but, according to O’Connor, felt lost and uncertain about his future. That’s when, according to Chapman University, Marty began looking into MBA programs, and enrolled in their Argyros School of Business and Economics.

School was the focus he’d been searching for, but he needed a little extra assistance getting there.

Marty was able to use voice recognition software and a special stylus to help him with his studies, but couldn’t take notes or hand-write test answers. So mom Judy did it for him. On May 20 of this year Marty finally earned his MBA, but the process taught him some even more valuable lessons about himself along the way.

“I didn’t know how going back to school without being able to write, or use my hands, or raise my hand in class, any of that, would go,” O’Connor told the Chapman University blog last year. “But I think it really kind of challenged me to do some introspection and see what strengths I do have to utilize, and how I can use my situation to work on some new strengths. This has really forced upon me some patience and thoughtfulness in everything I’m doing.”

Judy, a retired primary school teacher from Orange County, was there to see the culmination of all of their efforts. Not just as a witness, but as an honorary recipient of a degree herself. As she proudly pushed her son across the stage in his wheelchair during the graduation ceremony, she was surprised with the distinguished honor.

The best part — the honor was Marty’s idea, to be given as a thank-you for all his mother had done for him through the years.

“I did it willingly,” Judy O’Connor told ABC News. “When a spinal cord injury happens, you want to swoop in and make everything better and you can’t. This was something that I could do for my son and I was really happy that I was able to help him in that way.”

With his MBA in hand, the former competitive snowboarder and volleyball player will be joining a youth action sports startup called DIVERTcity as head of corporate sponsorships. We are sure he will go on to do great things and bet mom Judy will be there to cheer her son on every step of the way.