When he was 6 years old, Roberto Baccus-Williams stood on the University of Toledo campus with his uncle, who had just received a bachelor's degree in public affairs and communication.
A photographer caught the moment. Grinning and holding his uncle's diploma, Mr. Baccus-Williams was celebrated in a picture that was used for a UT minority student profile pamphlet.
That was in 1984.
Yesterday, Mr. Baccus-Williams - now 23 - received his own diploma from UT, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in communication.
“We tease him about that,” said his mother, Ruby. “He stole a diploma then. This time he earned one.”
Seated in Savage Hall among a sea of caps and gowns, Mr. Baccus-Williams was one of nearly 2,400 students awarded degrees at the university's spring commencement.
“I think it's a great accomplishment,” said Mr. Baccus-Williams, who was raised by a single mother. “It gives me a lot of motivation to do good things.”
Mr. Baccus-Williams, a Central Catholic High School graduate, received a full scholarship through the Toledo EXCEL program, which provides enrichment courses and activities for minorities and poor whites in the area. He said he is leaning toward a career in public service.
That path would fit perfectly with the advice of the commencement speaker, Judge Charles J. Doneghy of Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
“Education is not designed merely to lift one above their peers, to allow one to make a living,” he said. “Rather, another purpose of education is also to equip one to help their community, elevate the masses. ...
“Education should create in each of us a wholesome state of dissatisfaction,” he said, explaining that those who become satisfied stop growing and discovering.
Judge Doneghy graduated from UT in 1960 with a bachelor's degree and in 1965 with his law degree.
The crowds he addressed included students receiving 99 doctorate and education specialist degrees, 518 master's degrees, 1,487 bachelor's degrees, and 181 associate degrees.
The college of law, which awarded 111 degrees, had its ceremony at 10:30 a.m. at SeaGate Centre. Its speaker was Nevada Supreme Court Justice Deborah Agosti, who received her bachelor's and law degrees from UT.
The paths individual graduates took to their diplomas were varied.
Jose Torres-Moguel journeyed from Mexico City to study at UT. Yesterday, he rejoiced after receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree.
“I had to come a long way,” he said. “It's pretty cool.”
Lee Tremko, 41, began to pursue his associate degree in electronic engineering technology about three years ago after the former Doehler-Jarvis factory where he worked closed.
“These have been the three most wonderful years of my life,” he said. “I had started on an electronics degree years ago, but I kind of got distracted.”
As for Mr. Baccus-Williams, graduation was a time for reflecting on the high value his family placed on education.
“I just had a great experience,” he said.