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Woman attends classes with quadriplegic son, earns honorary MBA

LOS ANGELES – A woman who dedicated two years of her life to make sure her quadriplegic son's dream of earning an MBA came true got a big surprise at his graduation.

Judy O’Connor attended all of her son's classes with him, taking notes for him because he is unable to write.

As O’Connor pushed her son across the stage to accept his degree, she learned that she too would be earning a degree.

"I was totally blown away. I was trying to stay in the background," Judy O’Connor said

She has spent the last two years in the background, helping her son earn an MBA from Chapman University.

As he was getting his degree last weekend, Judy O' Connor got pulled to center stage.

"I thought if I ever got a master's it would be education because I was a teacher, but no, I was just helping my son," O’Connor said

Her son, Marty O’Connor, earned his undergrad degree from the University of Colorado in 2010.

He spent the next years on the fast track working in sales and traveling across the globe.

But a fall down a flight of stairs in 2012 changed his path. He was paralyzed from the neck down.

"At first I was in denial. I was an athlete, I was in sports my entire life," Marty O’Connor said.

He went into intense physical therapy pushing himself five days a week.

But learned just because he was mentally ready to get better his body wasn't there yet.

Rather than give up, he decided to enroll at Chapman University to earn his MBA.

"I was in such a funk mentally because every day was about the same thing. I just lacked that mental challenge," Marty O’Connor said.

The challenge was  going back to school a quadriplegic. His mother stepped in as his full-time scribe.

"I was in Florida teaching at the time when Marty's accident happened, and it was killing me. I couldn't have my own child needing me and me doing a job at the same time," Judy O’Connor said.

The two were inseparable for the next two years, in every class and long study sessions at home.

It paid off, and the two crossed the stage together.

"I worked and talked to so many people to make it happen, and I was just so excited for her because she deserved it so much," Marty O’Connor said.

"As a mom you just want to help your kids get through things, and as a mom I knew I couldn't help him in that way, but I always believed in him and I just wanted to have his back," Judy O’Connor said.