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By Karen Nikos-Rose on December 17, 2018

In celebration of the education that has helped him return to playing music, Michael O’Hearn was excited to walk for his graduation. But he didn't mean walking in the traditional sense that grads mean. He donned a cap and gown just like the others who would be in the ceremony. But in order to truly walk, he had to leave his wheelchair behind Saturday as he crossed the stage at UC Davis’ fall commencement.

Chancellor Gary S. May was one of many who were there to greet and applaud him.

But first, O’Hearn, a 62-year-old music major, played his trumpet with the commencement band one more time. And he stayed seated until the big moment when it was his turn to cross the stage.

In order to walk at graduation, O’Hearn has been working with a physical therapist from the student health center.

“I want to show what I’ve earned,” said the Davis man. “I want to be able to represent my improvements and the things I can do.”

May talked about O'Hearn in his commencement speech that day, a surprise for O'Hearn.

"We come from all kinds of backgrounds and age groups, and in some cases, have overcome great challenges to be here. I’m thinking of Michael O’Hearn, a 62-year old trumpet player who will earn a music degree today.  He was diagnosed 30 years ago with a rare degenerative disease that left him unable to walk. ... Michael’s not only been practicing the trumpet for his final performance with the commencement band, but he’s also been working with a physical therapist for this milestone day. Look for Michael to rise from his wheelchair before walking across the commencement stage and receiving his diploma."

 See the full story, "UC Davis Student to Hit High Note With Walk at Graduation," by Julia Ann Easley of UC Davis Strategic Communications.