SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Six decades after leaving American International College (AIC) in order to marry her college sweetheart, a 90-year-old woman from Wilbraham finally gets her degree.

Mary Brown of Wilbraham was enrolled at AIC from the Fall of 1950 through the Spring of 1952 and then again in the Spring of 1955, according to a news release sent to 22News from AIC. Mary left AIC just shy of graduating to get married to her husband, Garry Brown, and to start a family. Mary returned to school at Springfield Technical Community College and went to work for Baystate Health. Because Mary was so close to graduating, AIC elected to award her a diploma.

AIC became a family tradition for the Brown family because Garry was a proud AIC alum who had a career at what is now The Republican newspapers. He continued writing his sports column “Hitting to All Fields” until just a few weeks before his passing on January 31, 2022, at the age of 90.

Back in 2014, he received a doctor of humane letters honorary degree during the College’s commencement ceremony, which was sixty years after his first degree was granted. In October, Garry was inducted posthumously into the AIC Athletics Hall of Fame. He frequently talked about his ‘bride’ and how they met at AIC because they sat near each other in some classes because of the alphabetization of their last names. He was Brown, and she was Bukowski.

AIC President Hubert Benitez, DDS, Ph.D., and Interim Executive-Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Dodge, EdD, granted a bachelor of arts degree upon Mary in a private ceremony at her home. The ceremony was a surprise for Mary, but her family was in on the plan and was there to share the moment as she put on her cap and gown and was awarded her degree. Dodge says, “Although it’s been more than sixty-five years, Mary is now the College’s newest alumna!”

“While I did not have the good fortune of meeting Garry, I understand from those who knew him well that his commitment and love for the College was steadfast and that the connection to AIC was very much a family affair,” said President Benitez. “It was an honor to bring this story full circle and present Mary with a diploma.”

“I was honored to join President Benitez as we presented Mary her bachelor’s degree after all these years,” says Dodge. “As I stood in her living room surrounded by her family, several of whom were proud alums as well, it was inspiring to celebrate graduation a bit earlier this year.”

Two of Browns’ three children carried on the AIC tradition, as Melissa Brown graduated from the College in 1976, and Peter Brown in 1985. Melissa calls the AIC graduation of her mother special by saying, “It was a perfect way to honor her, and she was both surprised and thrilled by it all.”