Christmas miracle at fall commencement

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vanessa Barron walks across the stage to receive
her degree during commencement
When Vanessa Barron rose from a wheelchair to receive her diploma at commencement on Dec. 15, Freeman Coliseum exploded with applause. Graduates stood in awe, parents wiped away tears, the coliseum filling with emotion and a sound the scriptures call “a joyful noise.”

Vanessa was not supposed to be here. She suffered head, brain and spinal injuries in a horrific car accident three years ago. Doctors gave her a three percent chance of surviving. If she defied those odds, doctors said, Vanessa would live with permanent brain damage and never walk again.

On Saturday, Vanessa rose from her wheelchair and took a step forward to receive her diploma from OLLU. She placed the certificate on a walker and walked off the stage, turning the moment into a miracle, nine days before Christmas.

The student who suffered a compressed spinal cord in 2008 missed one semester of school to rehabilitate and returned to OLLU in 2009. After resuming her studies, Vanessa lost her mother and aunt to cancer but still raised her grade point average from a 3.0 to a 3.2. Vanessa left the stage to a standing ovation, a portrait of courage and inspiration.   

More than 330 OLLU students earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees on Saturday.