A Lafayette father and daughter will both be walking across the stage for their bachelor's Friday during the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's graduation ceremony.
Deron Santiny, 46, and daughter Haley Fox, 23, will each earn a bachelor’s degree in general studies from University College on Friday, according to a press release from the school.
“We didn’t plan this at all. It just kind of happened,” Fox said.
The pair has reached the same destination, but traveled far different paths.
The college career of Santiny, who first enrolled at UL in 1992, was cut short when he decided to take a job in law enforcement, and subsequently joined the military.
A U.S. Army and U.S. Navy veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was badly injured in 2005 when a roadside bomb detonated behind the Humvee he was riding in.
Santiny, positioned in the turret of one of three vehicles in a convoy patrolling south of Baghdad, was knocked unconscious. He suffered a broken neck, and considerable orthopedic damage to his back, shoulders and hands.
“Luckily, no one got killed,” said Santiny, who received the Purple Heart.
Medically retired, Santiny has endured 21 surgeries and more than 100 pain management procedures. They didn’t stop him from earning his degree.
“I wanted to finish what I started. I only had four semesters left, so I figured it was worth the effort,” explained Santiny, who returned to UL in 2015.
Fox enrolled at the University in 2012, after earning an associate’s degree by participating in South Louisiana Community College’s Early College Academy. The program enables students to earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree simultaneously by attending classes at SLCC.
Fox, who is a full-time internet salesperson at Audi Lafayette, took several breaks from her studies at UL to focus on her job.
“I was kind of like my Dad. I finally just decided to go ahead and complete my degree,” she said.
Due to some workweeks of up to 55 hours, Fox took many evening and online classes.
Most of Santiny’s classes, on the other hand, were in a traditional classroom setting.
The pair didn’t study together much, except when Fox tutored her dad in subjects such as math and statistics.
“I struggle with math, so she fussed at me a bunch of times, if that’s what you want to call tutoring,” he said with a laugh.
Fox intends to enroll in the University’s Professional Land and Resource Management program. She is also planning to get married in August.
Santiny will continue advocacy work for military veterans. He is a board member for the Veterans Coalition, and a member of the national campaign team for the Wounded Warriors Project. He traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this year to lobby for veterans' rights.
“He’s constantly traveling, and involved with multiple organizations, so that makes his getting his degree that much more of an achievement,” Fox said.
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