University gives a dying man a final gift: A degree for his daughter

Jim Brewer is overcome with emotion during the singing of “The Sprit of Aggieland” at the graduation ceremony for his daughter Jenny Brewer from Texas A&M at his home in Circle C Ranch Tuesday March 22, 2016 in Austin. Brewer, 57, is nearing the end of his struggle with pancreatic cancer, watched his daughter graduate from Texas A&M University,his alma mater. Doctors said Brewer’s time is short, Texas A&M brought the ceremony to his home as dozens of relatives, neighbors and friends looked on, many wearing Aggie maroon. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Here’s your daily dose of sweetness:

Texas A&M, like a lot of universities, is a pretty big place in which individuals can get lost in the system.

So it was a big deal this week when the university learned that Jim Brewer, 57, wasn’t going to live long enough to see his daughter graduate.

“One of the last things on my bucket list was to see my daughter graduate, but I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Jim, suffering from pancreatic cancer, told the Austin American Statesman. “Just seeing her get her degree …”

His son sent Texas A&M a letter, asking for a little understanding and a big favor.

So this week, Texas A&M brought a commencement ceremony to his driveway.

The ceremony started at 1:30 p.m. sharp as Texas A&M Associate Dean John Hurtado, wearing a black robe with a purple sash, stood at a lectern borrowed from Clayton Elementary School, where Brewer’s wife, Lisa, teaches second grade. Lisa Brewer knelt beside his wheelchair and held his hand as their two sons, Nick, 26, and Mike, 27, stood behind them.

“When I heard about this opportunity, I jumped at the chance,” Hurtado told the crowd. He brought a flag called a gonfalon that represents the college of engineering and explained the symbols to the crowd. Hurtado, an aerospace engineering professor, taught Jim’s daughter, Jenny, who is 23 and slated to receive a bachelor’s degree in that subject on May 12.

Hurtado’s voice broke when he turned his attention to Jenny and spoke of her accomplishments and the Aggie values she embodies. Jim Brewer looked on, alternately wiping tears and smiling at Jenny as she stood beside Hurtado in a cap and gown. When Hurtado instructed Jenny to turn around her class ring so the year was pointing outward, Jim touched his own ring, Class of 1980, and gave her a thumbs-up.