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Assyrian Father and Son Graduate Together From University
By Ashuriena Abraham and Joe Snell
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Dored Shiba (right) and his son Johnny. ( Todd Crawford/Northeastern Illinois University)
Dored Shiba's no stranger to graduating from Northeastern Illinois University. The U.S. Army Reserve veteran has done it twice since 2019. But it's his second graduation that sticks out. That's when Dored and his son, Johnny, graduated together.

"Graduating alongside my youngest son was a true gift from God," he said. "I felt joy, sadness, tears, and an overwhelming sense of achievement."

Northeastern Illinois is a public university in Chicago's metro that serves about 9,000 students. The school is a bit of a legacy for the Shiba's: Dored's brother, brother-in-law and his two children graduated there.

"We attended online classes simultaneously, even though we were in different rooms at home," Dored recalled. "I never expected to discuss academic subjects with my son."

When it was time for Shiba's own children to choose a school, it was an easy choice. Dored's oldest son Tony settled on Northeastern, and Johnny later transferred to the school from Oakton Community College.

But the entire family's education was disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I had to adapt to online learning, which was unfamiliar to me," Dored said.

Tony's graduation ceremony was canceled in 2020. He was emotional as he watched his father and brother walk on stage this year.

"To see my father and brother walk the stage together was an amazing feeling," he told the school's online publication. "It really is a once in a lifetime experience and the fact that I saw it during my life says it all."

The pandemic also brought some unexpected opportunities. Johnny used the time to create a webcomic called "The Unyielding Bonds of the Kuramochi's," about a family trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Although they've all graduated, the family is continuing to pursue their education. Tony is studying at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. Johnny was recently accepted into a Computer Science master's program at the University of Illinois Springfield. And Dored was accepted into a Doctor of Education program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

"I always tell Johnny and always told Tony, the military has trained me: look at how much time is left," Dored told Northeastern after graduation. "You have to maintain focus, be ambitious. Motivation is the number one key."

Dored recounted students asking him how he balanced academic work with his family and personal life.

"In every answer, I echoed the discipline and resolve that form part of our Assyrian legacy, which were further honed during my time in the U.S. Army," he said.

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