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USU grad walks — solo

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Utah State University student Greg Jorgenson couldn't attend graduation this spring. He was near death at the time.

Jorgenson suffered head injuries and lapsed into a coma after he was thrown 30 feet from a vehicle. He was traveling with five other members of the USU men's volleyball club April 12 when their van crashed in Wyoming.

But more than a month after traditional graduations and two months after his accident, the 23-year-old walked across the stage and received his bachelor's degree in technical writing from USU.

"I think it's really cool of the school to do this," Jorgenson said. "I was just excited to get a paper degree in the mail and that was it."

Ann Leffler, interim dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, didn't want Jorgenson to miss out on a real graduation, so the university conducted a personal graduation ceremony for him Saturday night. Family and friends convened in the USU amphitheater on Old Main Hill to listen to Leffler speak and give Jorgenson his diploma.

"All of our students are graduated personally in the sense that each one comes up on stage and shakes hands with the dean," Leffler said. "It's an individual fanfare for the students. We're giving him his moment. We're also celebrating that he's alive and doing so well. It's a miracle."

Jorgenson and his family were touched by the university's gesture.

"It's hard to even describe how I feel," said Ken Jorgenson, Greg's father. "It's almost choking."

Ken Jorgenson said the family has seen many miracles since his son's accident. Because of the severity of the head injuries, the doctors didn't think that Greg Jorgenson would wake from his coma. If he did awake, they thought he would have permanent brain damage or paralysis.

The doctors were wrong.

"He has come back really strong," Ken Jorgenson said. "It's nothing short of a miracle."

His walk is still uneven at times, but family members say he has almost completely regained his speech and mental abilities. Jorgenson attends therapy three times a week in an effort to regain full speech and memory capabilities.

Jorgenson will attend USU in the fall, taking a graduate course in English, and he will also be teaching an entry-level English course.

E-mail: tbarry@desnews.com