Granddaughter graduates from college alongside terminally ill grandfather


Together with granddaughter Melanie Salazar, 87-year-old Rene Neria took the stage at their university’s graduation ceremony to receive their degrees last month. (UTSA)

SAN ANTONIO, T.X. (KVEO) – A granddaughter and grandfather duo crossed the stage at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s commencement ceremony last month, proving it’s never too late to achieve your goals.

Rene Neria, 87, started his educational journey over a half-century ago, when he began attending St. Mary’s University in the 1950s. But he put his education on hold when he got married and started a family, granddaughter Melanie Salazar said in 2016.

Neira’s interest in pursuing a degree never waned, though he didn’t go back to school until the spring of that 2016, several years after his wife passed away.

Together with Salazar, Neria enrolled at Palo Alto College. In 2016, the two also caught the eye of the internet when Salazar shared a social-media post expressing how proud she was of her then 82-year-old grandfather returning to school.

Transferring to UTSA, the duo worked towards their goal of earning a bachelor’s degree. And on December 11, 2021, Salazar pushed her grandfather across the stage to receive his Degree in Recognition while she received her B.A. in Communication.

“Rene is terminally ill and in hospice now, but he’s just a few credits away from earning his bachelor’s degree in economics,” the university explained of Neria’s honorary degree, in a Facebook post they shared in December.

Neria’s illness, however, did not stop him from enjoying the special moment with his granddaughter. The attendees at the ceremony, too, went wild when Neira and Salazar took the stage.

“The crowd erupted into applause as Rene and Melanie received their diplomas together,” the university said.

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