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Father, son share cap and gown moment

The big challenge for this pair of family grads was deciding who got to study at dining room table

Posted: June 4, 2009 10:00 p.m.
Updated: June 5, 2009 8:00 a.m.

Rus Shaaban, left, and Cameron Shaaban walk through the College of the Canyons' campus Monday afternoon. The father/son duo will graduate together today at 9:30 a.m.

As College of the Canyons graduate Cameron Shaaban approaches proud family members with diploma in hand today, he'll have to share his photo-op spotlight with an unlikely graduating classmate - his dad.

But Shaaban doesn't mind. After all, it was the 20-year-old's idea for his father, Rus Shaaban, to return to school and graduate this year.

"It'll be a proud moment in father-son relationships. I don't know any friends who have actually graduated with their dad," said Cameron Shaaban, of Saugus, as he sat next to his father in the college's cafeteria. "Even if (the graduation seating) is alphabetical, we'll be sitting right next to each other."

When Rus Shaaban retired as a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy in 2005, he never thought he'd return to school.

The elder Shaaban, now 48, had racked up about 100 units starting in the late '70s, when he started college out of high school.

"I wasn't serious. I went to college because I wasn't in high school, I had no focus and eventually, I dropped out," he said.

From 1991 to 1993, with a family and career, Rus made another attempt at full-time college - this time at College of the Canyons.

"The kid starts growing up and between school activities and (sports), life gets in the way and school takes a back seat," he said.

"I'd rather participate with him than come study and go to school."

But one day this fall, grown-up son Cameron casually retrieved his dad's transcript and realized - with the help of a COC counselor - Rus was no more than eight classes away from achieving an associate's degree in administration of justice.

"The thing that really got me fired up is when my kid says, ‘Wouldn't it be cool if we graduated together on stage?'" Rus said.

Although Cameron said he was initially half-joking, Rus said that question is what motivated him to re-enter the college life.

"When you want to be here, it's a different experience than when you have to be here," he said.

Although father and son never shared an on-campus class together, they bumped into each other from time to time. "We'd get to the parking lot at the same time in the morning and I'd show him stuff I'm studying for a test that day," Cameron said.

Study time at home sometimes posed a challenged.

"We'd kind of fight over the dining room table as far as study territory," Rus said.

As a middle-aged adult walking the COC campus, he never felt like an oddball, he said.

"I met a woman at the Canyon Country campus who was 90 or 92," he said. "Maybe years ago, age could be a factor in stopping someone (from going back to school), thinking things passed them by, but if you wan to do it, just do it."

Rus did admit that after a few decades without math instruction, his algebra skills were a bit rusty.

"I just froze up until (Cameron) explained to me how to work through these equations," he said.

After a series of courses - three in the winter and five during the spring - Rus will sport cap-and-gown alongside his son at COC's 9:30 a.m. graduation ceremony today.

Cameron will graduate with an associate's degree of science and biological and physical sciences.

So what will the two grads do with their new status in the world?

Cameron is on his way to the University of California, Irvine in the Fall where he will major in microbiology. He's considering a career in medicine and pharmaceutical research.

For Rus, a diploma on the fireplace mantle will purely symbolize personal satisfaction.

"I've kind of pushed through middle age now," he said. "When you're 20-something, a degree is a big thing for career development and job growth. I'm kind of set where I'm at."

But Rus said he is not ruling out a bachelor's degree in the future.


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