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 would take notes and provide him other class information.”
Lukas, 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 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 PUC graduation Sunday afternoon at the 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,” Lukas said.
Joining him in cap and gown will be his wife, Brigid Lukas, who is earning a baccalaureate degree in sociology-criminal justice and human development & family studies. Additionally, she will receive the Chancellor’s Medallion as the top senior in PUC’s School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
“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.”
Raymond Lukas 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, Raymond 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, the former South Holland, Ill. resident has studied 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, so he would drive the kids to campus. We’d meet in a parking lot, and I would drive the kids home.”
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.”
As excited as he is to graduate, prospective public relations professional Raymond said 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.”