Walter Douglass and his son, Keith, took different routes to Temple University’s Fox School of Business. But at commencement, they walked together.
The father and son were seated beside one another May 6 at the Liacouras Center, and had their names and degrees announced simultaneously during the Fox School’s commencement ceremony.
Walter, who in 2009 opened a tax-preparation service, received a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Keith, 23, earned his Bachelor’s in Finance.
Walter, 50, balanced academic, professional, and familial responsibilities as “the most non-traditional student you’ll ever find,” he said. Walter has spent more than 30 years driving tractor-trailers, making nightly runs to Connecticut and returning to the family’s home in Schwenksville, Pa., in the mid-morning hours. At points of his undergraduate career, Walter would finish his day’s work and head directly to Main Campus. More recently, he would log a few hours of sleep before attending a late-afternoon class.
“There were times when I’d have two courses per semester,” Walter said, “but mostly, I would tell myself, ‘Let’s just take it one course at a time.’”
Walter began his pursuit of a college degree in 2001, first earning his associate’s degree at a community college before transferring to Temple. He’s been completing coursework ever since, except for an 18-month sabbatical while he received chemotherapy to treat Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Keith, 23, completed 18 credits of coursework in the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters in order to ensure he would walk with his father at commencement.
“When I looked at my schedule (last year), I thought, ‘I have to push myself. I owe that much to my father.’ He’s the hardest-working man I’ve ever known,” Keith said. “That was my motivation to get through it. I kept thinking, ‘This man has been through everything. I don’t have any excuses.’”
Walter plans to retire from tractor-trailer driving in May 2017, and focus fully on a career as an enrolled agent. Keith has accepted a full-time position as a financial advisor at Philadelphia’s McAdam Financial Group
The Douglass family, which includes mother Karen, and the couple’s two youngest children – Matthew, 21, and Lauren, 19 – was on hand to see Walter and Keith graduate. Fox School Dean Dr. M. Moshe Porat even commended the Douglasses during his commencement address.
“When (Walter) began taking college courses, Keith was only eight years old,” Karen said. “What are the odds they would both end up at Temple and the Fox School, and all these years later graduating on the same day, walking on stage together?”
“It’s a blessing,” Walter said. “It truly is.”