Deron Santiny and daughter Haley Fox will walk in tandem during the University of Louisiana's Spring 2017 Commencement ceremonies.

Santiny, 46, and Fox, 23, both of Lafayette Louisiana, will each earn a bachelor's degree in General Studies from University College on Friday. "We didn't plan this at all. It just kind of happened," Fox said.
The pair has reached the same destination, but traveled a far different path.

The college career of Santiny, who first enrolled at UL in 1992, was cut short when he decided to pursue a job in law enforcement, and subsequently joined the military.

A U.S. Army and U.S. Navy veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was badly injured in 2005 when an improvised Explosive Device detonated behind the Humvee he was riding in.

Santiny, positioned in the turret of three vehicles in a convoy patrolling south of Baghdad, was knocked unconscious. He suffered a broken neck, and considerable orthopedic damage to his back, shoulders and hands.

"Luckily no one got killed," said Santiny, who received the Purple Heart.

Medically retired, Santiny has endured 21 surgeries and more than 100 pain management procedures. It didn't stop him from earning his degree.

"I wanted to finish what I started. I only had four semesters left, so I figured it was worth the effort," explained Santiny, who returned to school in 2015.

Fox enrolled at the University of Louisiana in 2012, after earning an associate's degree by participating in South Louisiana Community College's Early College Academy. As part of the program, students earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree by attending classes at SLCC.

Fox, who is a full-time internet salesperson at Audi Lafayette, took several breaks from her studies at UL to focus on work.

"I was kind of like my Dad. I finally just decided to go ahead and complete my degree," she said.

In deference to a work schedule that can involve workweeks of up to 55 hours, Fox took many evening and online classes.

Most of Santiny's classes, on the other hand, were in a traditional classroom setting.

The pair didn't study together much, except when Fox tutored her dad in subjects such as math and statistics.
"I struggle with math, so she fussed at me a bunch of times, if that's what you want to call tutoring," he said with a laugh.

Degrees in hand, each has plans for the future.

Fox will enroll in the University of Louisiana's Professional Land and Resource Management program. She will also get married in August.

Santiny will continue advocacy work he does for military veterans, including as a board member for the Veterans Coalition, and a member of the national campaign team for the Wounded Warriors Project.
He traveled to Washington, D.C. earlier this year, to lobby for veteran's rights.

"He's constantly traveling, and involved with multiple organizations, so that makes his getting his degree that much more of an achievement," Fox said.