When he was alive, Luke Dunphy wanted to do everything he could to be a devoted father to his young son, Isaiah.
Though he had divorced Isaiah’s mother, Dunphy made sure to continue being an active part of his son’s life, providing guidance as well as someone to look up to.
The 26-year-old Dunphy was killed in a motorcycle accident last summer, but family members say that even in death, Dunphy is able to pass on values to his beloved son.
Santa Monica College, the school Dunphy had been attending at the time of his death, is planning to award Dunphy an Associate of Arts degree in liberal studies posthumously during a Board of Trustees meeting Monday, May 4th. College officials say it is believed to be the first time in SMC history that a degree will be awarded after a student’s death.
Family members, who asked that Dunphy be considered for such an honor, expressed gratitude to SMC for the recognition of their late relative, saying it will allow him to share the value of education with Isaiah.
“We’re very grateful that SMC has decided to confer this degree,” Jay Dunphy, Luke’s brother, said of the honor. “I can’t sufficiently express how invaluable I believe this degree would be to Isaiah in remembering his father for who he was and the values he espoused.
“It’s something (Isaiah) can carry with him for the rest of his life and it will be a great motivational piece for him to have.”
Family members say that Dunphy’s close relationship with his young son was just one example that shows how much of a caring person he was. Only a few days prior to his death, Dunphy went to a local hospital to begin the paperwork to donate his kidney to a girl he had recently met.
Jay Dunphy noted that the girl was initially resistant and curious as to the reason for the act of kindness, but Luke simply explained that the offer was “something I wanted to do and am able to do.” Dunphy’s kidney eventually was donated to the girl, but as a result of his death, and Jay Dunphy confirmed that the recipient is now healthy and plans to attend the degree ceremony.
“Luke’s act of generosity, both in life and in death, speaks to the core of who he was,” Jay Dunphy said of his brother, who worked at a motorcycle shop and a financial firm in Santa Monica at the time of his death.
As the fourth of seven children, Dunphy grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire and attended boarding school in Pennsylvania. Jay described Luke as someone who could bring people together and was called “The Team Dunphy MVP,” for being a source of support.
“He was such a positive force for everyone in his life,” Jay Dunphy said.
Luke later joined the U.S. Air Force and while serving in London, Dunphy met and married Isaiah’s mother, Monica. Dunphy took a great deal of pride in serving his country and was always appreciative of those who served in the military, his brother said.
After moving to the Los Angeles area, Dunphy enrolled at SMC, taking primarily business courses as well as ceramics and American art history classes. In spring 2008, he was named to the Dean’s honor list. The Air Force veteran planned on transferring to Pepperdine University following his time at SMC to work toward a bachelor’s degree in business.
SMC vice president of academic affairs Jeff Shimizu noted that Dunphy had completed over 60 units and fulfilled the requirements to receive an Associate of Arts degree prior to his death. College officials reviewed the family’s request, and in addition to the units Dunphy earned, they felt he was deserving of a posthumous degree, Shimizu said.
“Here’s an individual who was an outstanding father and someone who valued education,” said Shimizu, adding that SMC President Dr. Chui Tsang wanted to bestow the honor “without hesitation.”
“We wanted to do something a little special for his family and this is a way we thought would be best.”
Jay Dunphy said he and his brother Ben plan to attend the degree-awarding ceremony May 4th, but Isaiah and his mother will not be able to come. While Isaiah may not quite comprehend the significance of a college degree at his age, as he gets older, his father’s degree can serve as a reminder to the value of education, Jay Dunphy said.
Shimizu said that SMC officials are pleased to honor a former student who, in certain ways, represents many members of the student body on campus.
“It’s a really great gesture to honor an individual who in some respects represents many of our students at SMC,” he said.
“His challenge is near so many of the students we have here. It’s a great inspiration.”