David Thoen's journey of perseverance

For two years, David Thoen persevered. An ominous diagnosis – lung cancer that had spread to his liver and bones – wasn't going to deter him, nor was a torn retina that left him blind in one eye for a while.

Through it all, he was determined to finish George Fox's MBA program, and on Feb. 2, he was honored for his courage and dedication. Professors in robes, fellow MBA students, family and friends gathered in Thoen's hospital room on the seventh floor of Providence Hospital in Portland for a graduation ceremony unlike any other.

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Quietly, a crowd that included two dozen students filed into Thoen's room. One student laid a graduation gown over Thoen's shoulders and helped lace his hands through the sleeves. A morterboard was placed on Thoen's head. Then Dirk Barram, dean of the George Fox School of Business, stepped forward in full regalia and presented Thoen with his well-earned diploma.

It was the culmination of a hard-fought journey for the 58-year-old Thoen, who, just six weeks after enrolling in the George Fox part-time MBA program two years ago, learned he had lung cancer. Despite chemotherapy treatments and pneumonia that put him in the hospital for days, Thoen finished what he started.

Originally, George Fox planned to host a special commencement ceremony a day later, Feb. 3, but Thoen's doctor called with news that his patient might not live much longer. Plans had to be quickly changed.

It was well worth the effort.

"I've gone to at least 25 graduation ceremonies, but I've never been to one like this," Barram said.

Update: David Thoen passed away at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4.