KU graduate shares lesson not learned in class

Year after battle with meningitis, Andy Marso dons his cap and gown

He was a year late, but Andy Marso finally made it to the journalism school graduation ceremony at Kansas University.

Last year, when Marso officially graduated, he was battling bacterial meningitis at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. When he returned to campus Saturday to deliver the address during this year’s graduate recognition ceremony for the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the Lied Center, he could speak with authority about overcoming adversity.

His message to this year’s graduating class: Roll with the punches.

“As we head toward our dreams, there’s something we need to know: Our lives are not entirely our own,” he said.

Marso, 23, speaks from experience. Last year, he was finishing his senior year at KU when, in April, bacterial meningitis nearly killed him. He was in the hospital for five months and underwent a series of surgeries and rehabilitation to counteract tissue damage to his arms and legs. He lives with his family, who moved to Overland Park from Minnesota to care for him.

On the stage Saturday, with his father, Harry, by his side, Marso sat in a wheelchair and held his notes with a prosthetic left hand, flipping the pages with his right thumb, all that is left of that hand. He wore the cap and gown he should have worn last year.

Sometimes, he said, detours come up to derail plans.

Andy Marso, who missed his own graduation a year ago after being stricken with bacterial meningitis, was the speaker at the School of Journalism's graduation ceremony Saturday.

“We can get angry and bitter and rail against God or fate for having betrayed us,” he said. “But if we refuse to be discouraged and instead embrace these detours, there can be great rewards.”

Marso said he was glad to be on campus to participate in the ceremony. Last year, his brother, Dan, walked down Campanile Hill in Andy’s place.

“It’s great to be here and see everybody,” he said. “There are a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time.”