On Posthumous College Degrees

There’s been some chatter on Twitter today about the fact that a university recently published to its site its policy about issuing college degrees to people who die before they can complete the degree.

One of the cynical hot takes I saw on this practice was that it was to boost the college’s ranking with US News.

Seriously, to that person who said that, fuck you. Just because you’ve never actually been in the situation of having someone you love die before completing their degree doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to that person’s loved ones to be able to get that degree for them.

When my father passed away he was completing his final semester of college. He’d tried getting a degree when he was 18 but dropped out and only went back for his degree in his 40s.

He worked hard for that degree. I remember the night he stayed up all night trying to work on some problem set for his logic class that had him–a normally brilliant man–stumped. And I remember reading his short stories he wrote because he was in a creative writing class that finally gave him an excuse to focus more on his writing. And I remember how much he loved studying Russian history. (I toted those text books of his around with me for twenty years after he died because they reminded me of him even though I really had no interest in peasant life in Russia in the 1800s.)

Pursuing that degree was something vitally important to my father. It was an opportunity he had been denied when he was younger but that he fully embraced when life finally gave him the chance to pursue it.

But he died before he could complete his degree.

And I, at the age of 18, and my brother , at the age of 22, were swamped with trying to unravel the remains of his life. We had no idea that it was even possible to get his degree granted posthumously and, honestly, it was the last thing on our minds at the time.

Fortunately, he’d been very close with one of his history professors and that professor made it happen.

I will forever be thankful to that person. Because after the fog of grief cleared I had that degree to help remember him by.

He was a tremendous father, a good man, a business owner who provided jobs to others, but that degree was one of the few things he did in his life that our society puts value upon. And I am so so grateful that his school granted that degree to him even though he died before he could walk the stage with all the other graduates.

Seriously people not everything is about cynicism and nihilism, you know.