The straight line Kevin Macaulay will walk across stage to receive his associate's degree from Niagara University this Saturday will be in stark contrast to the long and winding road that led him to that moment.
Macaulay's journey - beset with hope, heartbreak and heroism - began in 1965 when the Long Island native enrolled at NU. Macaulay served as a resident assistant at Niagara and met his future wife, Ann Quigley, who was a nursing student and captain of the women's basketball team.
After completing his freshman year, Macaulay fell ill, precipitating his withdrawal from school. No sooner did Macaulay withdraw then he received notice the Army had drafted him. However, he chose instead to volunteer to serve his country as a United States Marine.
Macaulay served in the Marines for four years, including one year in Vietnam, and was decorated for valor during the Battle of Khe Sanh. He has been interviewed and cited in a number of books and journals about that battle and the experience of combat.
Kevin maintained contact with Ann while he was overseas fulfilling his military service. They both moved to Long Island after she graduated in 1969, but before Kevin could complete his degree. Two years later, they were married.
Ann worked as a nurse in Nassau County and Kevin served as a stationary engineer for the New York City Board of Education while acting as chief of the East Meadow Fire Department for nearly 34 years. The couple raised nine children, two of whom are graduates of Niagara University.
In 2001, Macaulay, a trained emergency medical technician, was among the brave first responders who volunteered in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York City.
Five years later, he and his wife returned to Western New York, where Macaulay assumed the role of chief of Lewiston Fire Co. No. 1.
Macaulay re-enrolled at NU in 2010, but his attempts to complete his degree were thwarted again when Ann was diagnosed with cancer. She succumbed to the disease in 2012. After Ann's death, Macaulay became ill and was unable to continue his studies.
Now 67 years old, with more than his share of health challenges, Macaulay continues to work toward his B.A. in history. However, given his 3.92 GPA, his lifelong devotion to helping those in need and the successful completion of the requisite credit hours, Niagara University will present Macaulay with an associate's degree during Saturday afternoon's commencement exercises, which begin at 3 p.m. in the Gallagher Center.
Macaulay will be the first of 385 degree recipients during the event for the university's College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education.
"The experience of Kevin Macaulay is a testament to the Vincentian life of service that we strive to instill in our students," said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. "We tell our students to the put the needs of others before theirs, something that Kevin did on numerous occasions. At the same time, perhaps no one has made more valiant attempts to earn an NU degree over such an elongated timeframe than Kevin Macaulay. We are honored to recognize his resolve."
For more information on Niagara University's 2015 commencement ceremonies, visit www.niagara.edu/commencement.