Guide dog graduates UMass Boston with student - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Guide dog graduates UMass Boston with student

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BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- A graduate student and his guide dog both walked across the stage on Friday to received their diplomas from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

William O'Donnell received his Master's in Public Affairs and because he and his guide dog are both described as a "constant" on campus, both were present at graduation as student marshals and they both received diplomas.

The diploma for O'Donnell's guide dog Marshall, however, was made of rawhide instead of paper.

Marshall even wore his own graduation cap as the pair walked across the stage.

"Marshall entered the program with me, and he is leaving with me," said O'Donnell in a press release. The grad student, 31, has been blind since birth.

The day has more meaning than just a celebration of O'Donnell's achievement. Friday will also be Marshall's last day of work as a guide dog before his retirement.

"This will be the last walk he takes leading me as a guide dog. For both of us, it is symbolic," he said.

O'Donnell said he and Marshall have been completely accepted on campus. 

"I've been able to do the same things as any other student, and a lot of that is because people have become educated about people with disabilities, particularly people with vision loss," he said.

O'Donnell's long-term goal is to start an initiative to get more working-aged blind people in the general workforce.

A recent population survey showed that 75 percent of people who reported that they were blind or had serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses were "not in the labor force."
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