MADISON, Wis. - More than 1,100 UW-Madison students walked across the stage to pick up their diplomas at Sunday’s commencement ceremony. But for one student, that moment was 50 years in the making.
“I arrive in Madison 53 years ago,” Luciano Barraza said.
The 77-year-old earned his Ph.D. in agricultural economics in 1967, but never got to participate in the commencement ceremony.
“I was working in Mexico and I needed to go back to my work,” he said.
After seeing his daughter graduate with her Ph.D. a few years ago, Barraza told his grandson that missing his own ceremony was one of his biggest regrets.
“I saw him just smiling from ear to ear in something that she was able to follow in his footsteps, so I knew that it was something that would’ve been cool,” Raul Correa, Barraza’s grandson, said.
Raul got to work, making hundreds of phone calls, sending countless emails, and telling his grandfather’s story to UW in hopes of getting him that doctoral hood he missed out on decades ago.
“I say, well, it’s impossible, 50 years later to come back to the university. There’s 50,000 students. They’re not going to think of a guy that graduated 50 years ago,” Barraza said.
It took months, but Raul heard back from UW-Madison officials saying his grandfather would walk across the stage in the December commencement ceremony.
“We were in a restaurant and I walked out and I was just yelling down the street,” Raul said.
With his children, and Raul, sitting in the crowd at the Kohl Center, Barraza took the stage, celebrating a moment 50 years in the making.
“I am obviously grateful,” he said.
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