May 11, 2001

blog May 11, 2011

There are days in our lives that we will never forget unless we are stricken with Alzheimer’s. I will never forget May 11, 2001. So on the ten year anniversary of that day, I’ve decided to look back and reflect.

It was a day filled with friends, family, and the combination of a dream come true.

Ten years ago today, I graduated from USC. Now, if you told me that I would be graduating from USC three years prior, I would have called you crazy, because up until September of ‘98, I always thought that I could never go to college. It hurt so much. But…I decided to throw logic out the window, caution to the wind, and just do it. I had no idea what to expect. My dad thought I would call him two weeks into my first semester and say, I can’t do this. Both he and I are so happy I didn’t make that call.

I could write pages about that day, but some of you have to get back to work and I respect that. Here are some of the highlights.

- My parents taking me out to breakfast.
- Meeting up with my friends so we could go into Shrine Auditorium.
- My friend Marlene taping my cap to my head because it kept falling off.
- A warm hand on my shoulder and the voice of Jim Ellis saying how proud he was of me.

Two weeks before graduation, Jim Ellis then a marketing professor at USC and now the Dean of USC Marshall School of Business told us, Next to your wedding day and your children being born, this will be the most important day of your lives. Go slow. Enjoy the moment.

During my tenure at USC, I made many, many, life-long friends, and most of them knew how special the day was for me.

After a couple of speeches, they started calling out the names. I saw that Jim Ellis was getting many hugs and couldn’t wait until it was my turn. I took two marketing classes from Jim and we spoke one-on-one almost every week. I shared with him how scared I was about graduating and my next steps. I still go see him at least twice a year and when I wrote my book, there was no question about who I would ask to write the forward.

When I finally was in line for my name to be called, I said to myself, Go slow and give Jim a hug. My name was called and my plan was pleasantly interrupted by a spontaneous standing ovation by over 5,000 people. I was so excited that I hit the joystick on my wheelchair, quickly grabbed my diploma cover and went back to my seat.

As soon as my moment was over, I said to myself, I went too fast! Anytime Dean Ellis talks about me, or graduation in general, he always tacks on that tale of me going too fast.

(My friend Artin saw me outside and said that I stole the whole show!)

The surreal part is, I almost didn’t go to USC because I was afraid nobody would help me in the restroom. More importantly, I was embarrassed even to ask. Swallowing my pride made a dream come true. I made life-long friends, I attended their weddings, traveled with them, and shared hopes and dreams with them.

I love all my friends, but anytime I talk or hang out with my fellow USC alumni, see a football game on TV, visit the campus, or attend a networking event, I am reminded of that dream come true.

I am honored when Dean Ellis asks me to come to his freshman class to present every year. Just last week I was invited by the Trojan Women’s League of San Diego to come and speak. I love it. I love USC and I love being a Trojan.

Most importantly, anytime I think something is hard or impossible, I think about the fact that there was a time in my life when USC was no more than a big fantasy.

Timelapse - Lighthouse (Oct 2012) from IMK Digital Multimedia on Vimeo.


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