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Calvary patient earns Masters day before passing

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Before she left this earth, Alma Devone committed herself to earning a Masters degree from Touro College. 

College reps awarded her the degree she worked so hard for in a special public ceremony at Calvary Hospital on Thursday, May 1.

On Friday, May 2, Devone took her last breath.

“Alma had been a gift to us,” said Dr. Michael Brescia, Calvary’s executive medical director.  “She gave us far more than we have given her.”

The Calvary patient had earned a Master of Science degree in Education and Special Education, with a focus on the middle childhood years.

Not knowing that it would be her final day at the hospital, the staff wanted to give back to the well-liked, hard working student who was fighting cancer at the age of 52. 

Due to her inability to attend the college to pick up her degree, the hospital arranged for the school to come to her. 

In celebration of Touro College’s visit, staff placed purple and yellow colored lighting atop the Calvary conference room, adding to the celebration’s pomp and circumstance. 

“We haven’t had a graduation at Calvary before and what a start,” said hospital president Frank Calamari, at the time.

The event featured a black tie wait staff, balloons and a cake that said, “Congratula­tions Alma.”

With friends, family and colleagues in attendance, Devone shared just 20 minutes with the crowd, having to return to a private location for treatment . 

Responding to the difficulty that only allowed Devone a short public celebration, Brescia said she “willed herself to be here.” 

Dr. Ronald Lehrer, associate dean for education at Touro College, conferred the diploma and relayed stories from professors and students who encountered Devone in their classes.

Through her oxygen mask, Devone faintly uttered, “I love you so much, thank you,” to those in attendance.

Her principal, Dolores Beckham, of I.S. 145, the Joseph Pulitzer Intermediate School, named Devone Teacher of the Year at the Queen’s school, bringing the honoree to the verge of tears.  She brought the graduate a beautiful corsage on behalf of the school’s teachers and students. 

Devone’s oncologist Dr. Barry Kaplan added, “I’ve never met a stronger, better person my entire life.”

Updated 5:29 pm, October 21, 2011
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