In December, Chuck Harper (BS, Social Work) walked 56 feet across the stage to pick up his college diploma. His brief walk represented a journey that could not be measured in feet or miles.

At 45, Harper has suffered job loss, worked to prepare for a new career and survived a rare blood disease that nearly took his life. He made the walk across the commencement stage on legs made of titanium and plastic that he was still getting used to.

Because of his illness, Harper had his legs amputated and spent 49 days in the hospital before returning to school to finish his senior year. Throughout the ordeal, Harper received tremendous support from his fellow students and the social work faculty.

Kristen Humphrey, an associate professor in the Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences, said Harper’s positive attitude throughout his ordeal was inspirational.

“He has been such an inspiration and role model to his fellow social work students,” Humphrey said.

After graduation, Harper went to work for TFI Family Services, a non-profit agency that provides foster care and adoption services throughout Kansas.