Quadriplegic son helps surprise his mom with an honorary degree for going to every class with him

In 2012, Marty O'Connor fell down a flight of stairs. This fall left him a him a quadriplegic. 

The Anaheim Hills local had just finished his undergrad degree at University of Colorado two years before. He had been a young salesman for packaging industry firm TricorBraun, traveling internationally and “making great strides, at the apogee of my career,” he said.

After the accident, his main focus was his physical health, he went to physical therapy five times a week. Marty said he began to feel lost mentally and that is when graduate school became his new goal. 

Marty was awarded a $10,000 annual scholarship through Swim With Mike, an organization started to benefit USC All-American swimmer Mike Nyeholt, who was paralyzed in a motorcycle crash 1981. 

During his studies at Chapman University, Marty couldn’t take notes or hand-write test answers. He could only use voice recognition software and other aids, but that’s where his mom came in.

The retired elementary school teacher with a business degree from Notre Dame has been at his side through every course. Judy O’Connor attended every class with 29-year-old Marty O’Connor, taking notes for him as he worked toward his master’s of business administration degree. 

“I’m a geek. I love being in school,” she said. “I’m not going to lie. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

This past weekend Chapman surprised her with an honorary degree when she wheeled her son up to the stage to get his degree. It was her son's idea. 

“Mrs. Judith O’Connor has attended all the classes with her son Marty,” the announcer said. “She has taken notes and worked with Marty throughout his academic career.”

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