SAN ANTONIO – The family of a local man will be celebrating his accomplishments this weekend, alongside the families of other college graduates.
The big difference, though, is that the graduate, himself, will not be attending the ceremony at the University of Texas San Antonio.
Paul Mayfield died in 2003, before he could complete his coursework there in Interdisciplinary Studies.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of his death, his sister, Janice Mayfield-Johnson, decided to make an appeal to the university’s president. She wrote a letter asking that Paul be recognized for his work, posthumously.
“And I just said, ‘You probably don’t get this request every day. But could you give my brother a degree?,’” she said, sharing her story recently with KSAT 12 News.
To her surprise, UTSA’s administration agreed to grant her request.
Paul will be awarded his Bachelor of Arts degree May 20, the same day as their late mother’s birthday.
“I’m just so very happy that this is happening, and I just couldn’t say enough about it,” said their brother, Leon Mayfield.
The family believes the honor speaks to the life Paul lived. They say he readily served others, working as an advocate for people in the community with AIDS, and catering to his loved ones.
“He was very loving and kind,” said Leon. “He was so smart too. He just cared about people. He was always there for you if you needed him.”
Even with a rewarding career already under his belt, Paul had decided to work toward completing his formal education.
The siblings say attending college and obtaining a degree is part of a family legacy, a value instilled in them by their mother.
“The idea that education was the way to transcend and go to the next level of living,” Leon said.
Janice agreed, noting how they all embraced and acted on that belief system.
“In our core nuclear family between mommy and daddy, all 8 kids, we have 19 college degrees,” she said, proudly.
Until now, Paul had been the only sibling without a college degree.
When his name is called during Saturday’s ceremony, several generations of his family will be in attendance, both in the stands and on stage.
His niece, Janece Mayfield-Johnson, will stand in for him. “Getting up and getting dressed and getting there and walking the stage for my uncle, that does mean a lot to me,” she said.
For other family members, the honor is a long-held dream they’re finally seeing fulfilled.