A Family Affair

5/6/2002

It isn't often when a father gets to follow in the footsteps of his son. Usually, it's the other way around - a young man proudly maneuvering on a steady path paved by his dad.

However, on Sunday, May 19, a unique turn of events will unfold during Suffolk University's graduation ceremonies at the Fleet Center in Boston. Late that afternoon, Robert Luisi will walk across the stage to receive his Executive MBA degree from Suffolk University, just minutes after his only son, Jason, will take the same journey, accepting his bachelor of science in business administration degree.

So much for the adage, "Like Father, Like Son." The roles are now reversed, created more by design than anything else. The undergraduate students simply line up and receive their degrees before the graduate students get their turn.

"That's okay with me," said Robert. "My family will celebrate Jason's accomplishment first, and then celebrate my accomplishment. Overall, it's going to be a very special day for the both of us. It is something I will hold onto forever and I'm sure it will be the same way for Jason."

Graduating from the Fleet Center, home of the Boston Celtics, is appropriate for this hoop-loving, father-son combination. Jason, 21, had a basketball in his hands before he was older enough to tie the laces on his sneakers. Robert, 47, coached Jason at the youth level in Hyde Park, their hometown, as well as in other competitive leagues.

"My dad taught me how to show respect and to be myself," said Jason, who starred at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, earning Catholic Conference Most Valuable Player honors in his senior year. "He always encouraged me to play hard and to be a team player."

Father knew best when teaching his son the game. In fact, Jason, who attended Suffolk on an academic scholarship (he finished with a 3.0 grade point average), went on to distinguish quite a name for himself on the court for the Rams. The 6-1, 170-pound shooting guard is now in the record books as Suffolk's second all-time leading scorer with 1,869 points. He started every game in his four-year career and is the first Suffolk men's basketball player to lead his team in scoring each of his four seasons of varsity competition. This past season, Luisi averaged 17 points per game, directing the Rams as they won the Great Northeast Athletic Conference regular season title and post-season tournament championship. He also led the NCAA Division III in free throw percentage (92.6, connecting on 87 out of 94 attempts).

"Jason Luisi is one of the finest individuals I've ever coached," said Suffolk men's head basketball coach Dennis McHugh. "This season he was arguably the best shooter in New England."

While Jason was raining three-point shots over opposing defenses, Robert always had a front row seat. In four years, dad was in attendance for all but four of his son's games, including road contests. He was totally committed to his dual role of father and fan.

"In order to receive my Executive MBA, I had to go to school every Saturday, all day, for 21 consecutive months - except during the basketball season," explained Robert, Director of Strategic Support for Family Service of Greater Boston, the city's oldest nonprofit human service agency. "It took me a little bit longer than most people, but I just couldn't be in class knowing Jason was playing right down the street."

Balancing his family life (which includes his wife of 23 years, Annette, and their two daughters - Jennifer, 16 and Jessica, 14) with work and going to school was not an easy task for Robert. Nonetheless, he says his educational experience at Suffolk was well worth the effort. "I've always wanted to get my Executive MBA, but the timing was never right," he said. "Now, that it's over, I'm amazed that I was able to pull it off. I loved everything about it, from the top-notched professors to the camaraderie shared by the students. I would recommend this program to anybody."

Although Jason will technically be the first Luisi to receive his Suffolk degree, Robert isn't complaining. He will savor every moment in his cap and gown. You see, he missed his high school graduation (Hyde Park High School, Class of 1973) because he was off serving his country in the Marine Corps, and he didn't attend his college graduation (UMass-Boston, Class of 1982) after going to school nights for five years because he felt so much older than the other graduates. "I ended up getting my degree (bachelor of science in business administration) in the mail," said Robert with a chuckle.

This time things will be much different. A father and son, two basketball purists, graduating from Suffolk University with the Celtics' championship banners prominently displayed above them. It's not certain if they'll wear sneakers or dress shoes for this memorable occasion, but that doesn't matter. Nor does the situation of who is going to graduate first. The important thing is that they are experiencing one of the most important and rewarding days of their lives.

Together.

For more information, please contact Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448.

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