Through Cancer, Injury and Life, Graduate Persisted

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

After 27 years, two battles with blood cancer, two knee replacements, three colleges, six children, and two jobs, Curtis Bronson is finally a college graduate.

The 2019 graduate of SJU began his journey towards a college degree with a vow to his mother when he was just 11 years old. Before passing, Bronson’s mother made him and his two brothers promise they would graduate from college.

“I’m a man of my word,” he says.

However, keeping that commitment was anything but easy.

Bronson’s almost three-decade-long journey began in 1992 when he had to turn down a partial scholarship to Johns Hopkins University. After putting college on hold due to cost, Bronson was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. He was hospitalized for two years.

When he was finally able, Bronson began taking classes at a local community college before transferring to Temple University. There, he underwent an experimental treatment for cancer that weakened his bones. His knees shattered while walking to class one day, causing him to need full knee replacements in both legs. In 2003, the cancer came back and he was forced to drop out of school.

It wasn’t until 17 years after starting his education that he enrolled at SJU and began working towards his degree part-time — all while working two jobs and raising his sons. But with the support of his “genius” wife and the help of the SJU staff, Bronson was able to maintain the promise he made his mother and receive his college degree.

Bronson says one of the biggest challenges he faced when going back to school was needing to re-learn how to learn. Between new advancements in technology completely changing the world of education and the rounds of chemo, Curtis needed to adjust to an entirely new world.

“After chemo, I need to work really hard to retain information. I was nervous about writing and turning in papers. I didn’t want to fail because it was taking me a long time to create an explanation,” he shares. “My wife was able to help break down the information to help me learn.”

While he’s accomplished his goal of getting his bachelor’s degree, he’s not done yet. Bronson plans to continue his education by getting a master’s.

“I want to set an example for my boys,” he says.

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