HAMMOND | Few students excuse themselves from the first day of class, but Purdue University Calumet’s Raymond Lukas had a good reason for leaving his Spanish 101 instructor, Barbara Shinovich, a phone message two days before the 2011 fall semester began.”
“When I called him back and asked if I had awakened him, he just chuckled,” Shinovich said, “He then told me he was recovering from brain surgery, was in ICU and would miss the first two class sessions, but that his wife also was in the class, and she would take notes and provide him other class information.”
Raymond, 35, has had three brain surgeries to treat his pituitary adenoma condition, a non-cancerous tumor on the pituitary gland. His time in the military also has prompted shoulder surgery, and while working as a plumber, he hurt his back, necessitating another operation.
Nonetheless, the Dyer resident and Tinley Park, Ill. native expects to make it on time to his Purdue Calumet graduation Sunday afternoon at the Radisson Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville, where he will receive a degree in communication.
“I’ve had to hang in there and get my degree, so I can move into a less physical career,” Raymond said.
Joining him in cap and gown graduates’ attire will be his wife, Brigid, who also is earning a baccalaureate degree--in two study fields: sociology-criminal justice and human development and family studies. Additionally, she will receive the Chancellor’s Medallion as the top senior in Purdue Calumet’s School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
Raymond first became aware of his pituitary adenoma in 2005, following a car accident.
“I was having bad headaches and nausea,” he said. “I could have awakened totally blind from it, so I guess it was a blessing in disguise that I had the accident.”
Besides attending to his health, studies, marriage, fatherhood — he and Brigid have a 3-year-old son, Mason, and 6-year-old daughter, Paige — and renovating their Dyer home, Ray also gained hands-on experience serving an internship and working part-time at Hammond radio station WJOB.
Watching her husband resume an education he began years earlier in Illinois motivated Brigid, 34, to do the same. Building on an associate degree she had earned, the former South Holland, Ill. resident has prepared diligently to become a caseworker for children or military veterans.
“It’s been a challenge,” she said. “This spring, I had an internship in the morning, ate my lunch in the car and went to class in the afternoon. Ray had classes starting at 5 p.m., so he would drive the kids to campus before his class. We’d meet in a parking lot, and I would drive the kids home.”
But both admit the experience has been worth it.
“Some of my classes were taught by actual social workers,” Brigid said. “The stories they told really taught you about the field.”
Both also admit the opportunity to earn a Purdue education factored into their decision to enroll at Purdue Calumet.
“It has been a pleasure to teach such dedicated and diligent students,” Shinovich said. “They are a credit to Purdue Calumet and demonstrate what can be accomplished even during the most trying times.”
As excited as he is to graduate, prospective public relations professional Raymond says he will be even more excited to watch his wife receive her academic medallion.
“I am extremely proud of her,” he said, “that she has been able to achieve what she has given all that we’ve gone through.”