MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For many people, it’s one of life’s turning points: Graduating from college. But a young man from Maple Grove is wrapping up a “college experience” that few have ever known.
Around 550 students are now fresh graduates of Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter Sunday. For graduating senior Brendan Loney, the past few years have changed him, in many ways.
At 18 years old, he walked onto Gustavus’ campus.
“Now, I’m a 24 year old adult leaving with a lot more knowledge about life and school,” Loney said.
It’s knowledge few of us have: Over the course of his time at Gustavus, he learned how to write using the side of his hand..
Early in his college career, he took a dive into a lake and that would be the last time he was able to use his legs. He recalls his days in the hospital. Blinking was his only communication for a month, “I was unable to swallow, speak.”
He said he had to make a choice.
“I could’ve laid down, stayed in bed but it really doesn’t get you anywhere,” Loney said.
He realized it also wouldn’t it get him a college diploma — a point his advisor made to him.
“This is a very difficult situation for a guy his age, but a degree is very important, so let’s just figure out how to get it done,” Professor Bruce Johnson said.
Now, Loney is graduating with a degree in business. He’s been commuting an hour and 20 minutes several times a week to make it happen.
He’s also found a friend with two pairs of legs to help, his Golden Retriever, Rio.
“He goes to class and sleeps, if it’s a good day, he’s sleeping,” Loney said.
His parents say they could not be more proud. They say he wakes up every day and solves problems, figuring out how to get around and how to move toward one of his goals of being a motivational speaker.
“It’s tough being confined to the cahair but it’s not the end all, be all,” his father, Duffey, said.
His mom, Julie, said, “He never shows fear, OK, what do you want me to do and off he goes. I don’t know where that came from but it’s pretty impressive.”
Her words are proof that the most important part of graduation is not being able to walk.
“Definitely not the end, not the last time you’ll hear from me,” Loney said.
He has a jump start on the working world. Loney has already started his own line of inspirational clothing.