- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - Death will not keep Charles Davis from receiving a degree from his beloved Augusta University.

Davis, 45, died March 28 from metastatic bladder cancer but his wife, Patti, and his son, Robert, are set to accept his degree in history on May 13 during the university’s commencement ceremony. It’s the first posthumous degree for the school since becoming Augusta University last year.

“I have been blown away by how much Augusta University is doing to honor Charles,” Patti Davis said. “It just astonishes me.”

His pursuit of a degree in history began 20 years ago at then-Augusta College but the birth of his son Robert, now 20, forced him to consider other options to support his family. He found his love for teaching in working with special-needs students as a paraprofessional at Cross Creek High School. When his teacher there decided to retire, Charles Davis decided to go back to school to become a teacher himself.

“He said, ‘Nobody else can love and take care of these kids like I do,’” Patti Davis said. “So he felt really strongly that he wanted to finish school and I was feeling the same way.”

So Patti and Charles Davis enrolled in AU for spring semester 2015, joining Robert, who had enrolled the previous semester. They decided to make an adventure of it.

“We’d have that college experience together as an old married couple, is the way we looked at it,” Patti Davis said. “We had a lot of fun. We took a couple of classes together in the summer. We had a lot of fun acting like young college students in our 40s.”

Charles Davis was first diagnosed with bladder cancer six years ago but “he battled and he was really successful and did really well,” Patti Davis said. He was returning to school at a place he loved - he took Patti around campus and showed her some of his favorite spots that were still there - to complete some unfinished business.

“I think he felt like this was an investment worth making and that he really wanted to complete his degree, that he had completed every other milestone in his life, other than the completion of his degree,” Davis said. They talked a lot about their future, about becoming empty nesters when their other son, 15-year-old Jacob, left and what kind of house they might get.

“We talked and we acted like he had many, many years left,” she said. And Charles Davis wasn’t going to stop at his bachelor’s degree.

“It was to launch him into the master’s program for secondary education specializing in special needs,” she said.

When he started having back pains last fall, they thought it was just part of his ongoing back problems. By the time the cancer was discovered again, it had already spread “like wildfire.”

Davis had to withdraw this semester but promised her husband she would return to complete her degree in health information administration, which fits with her job as billing manager at Christ Community Health Services. That AU will give Davis its first posthumous degree despite him being a few credits short is deeply moving to the family.

“I feel like this is just a completion of him, this is something that he always wanted,” Patti Davis said. “I wish he was here to appreciate it, the way it is being done.”

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Information from: The Augusta Chronicle , https://www.augustachronicle.com


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