Nicholas Burruano finally attended his graduation on May 5.

Nicholas Burruano wanted to graduate, but he was busy.

Really busy.

Now, 30 years later, the University of Bridgeport (UB) student and former Bridgeport firefighter will get the diploma he’s been waiting for ever since he had to skip graduation on June 1, 1988.

“Every year,” he said, “it seemed like there was always something going on. It’s been a long time.”

University officials agree. They’ve decided Burruano will be the first student to walk across the stage at Webster Bank Arena and receive his diploma—a bachelor’s degree in music education—during Commencement on Saturday, May 5, 2018. Burruano and his family will also be feted at a VIP luncheon following the ceremony.

So, what has Burruano been up to?

Working and family. Playing some saxophone (he’s big into jazz). But mostly work.

Back in the 1980s, Burruano explained, his parents clocked extra hours on the job to send him to UB, but it wasn’t enough. So he pitched in and got a job with the Bridgeport Fire Department. On weekdays, he finished teacher training required for his education degree. Nights and weekends were spent at the fire house on Central Avenue.

When graduation was scheduled, Burruano knew right away that he “couldn’t get the day off. The job came first at that point. I figured I’d go to graduation someday.”

Then he and his wife became parents. Months, then years, then decades flew by. In 2009, Burruano retired from the Bridgeport Fire Department. His father passed away in 2000.

Burruano began to take stock. He thought about the sacrifices his parents made to send him to college. He thought about his professors at UB, the good times he had playing the sax with his buddies. He thought about his diploma, and wondered, if maybe, he could get it after all.

“For the past couple of years, I mentioned it to my wife a couple of times. ‘You know, I’d like to walk with the line [of students] and graduate.’ I wasn’t sure if they’d let me,” said Burruano.

There was only one way to find out: he called to ask.

UB was thrilled to hear from him.

“I am so delighted that Nicholas returned this year to walk for the Commencement!” said Provost Stephen Healey, who met with Burruano and confirmed that Burruano had successfully completed all of his coursework. “It’s proof of the University’s and Nicholas’s commitment to life-long learning.”

For Burruano, getting his diploma is also proof that certain items on the bucket list are meant to be ticked off—especially if they can be shared with loved ones.

“My mom always wanted a college education for herself. She couldn’t get it. She always worked all her life. My dad wanted a college education, too. He couldn’t attain one, either,” said Burruano. “They were blue-collar people, but they wanted me to go to UB. They had to work extra shifts and overtime for extras and UB, but they were always so happy for me.”

On Saturday, Burruano’s wife Josephine, two of their best friends, and his 74-year-old mother Deanna will be inside Webster Bank Arena, waiting, at last, for Nicolas Burruano’s name to be called.

“It’s a very big deal for mom,” Burruano said. “I’m just so grateful.”

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625, lgeary@bridgeport.edu