UD student loses both parents before graduation, finishes with honors

Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

Just before receiving his acceptance letter to the University of Dayton in December 2014, Josh Biris’ father died during his senior year of high school.

Then, upon entering into his junior year at UD, Biris reconciled with his mother after years of a strained relationship. Shortly after, he learned of her stage four cancer diagnosis and began travelling home to Cleveland every weekend to care for her, all while completing a co-op with GE Aviation.

Biris’ mother died a few months later in December 2017.

Combined ShapeCaption
Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

Biris graduates Saturday with a mechanical engineering degree with honors and has already secured a job in GE Aviation’s Operations Management Leadership Program.

Wright State, UD to graduate more than 2,045 students Saturday

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” said Biris, the youngest of seven children. “I have a feeling I’m going to break down after I walk off that stage and see my family. After everything I went through, and them seeing me through everything, just to see them — I don’t know how to put it into words.”

Despite dealing with the loss of both parents in a short amount of time, Biris said graduating college was what his parents always wanted for him. He did it for them.

Beavercreek voters will decide fate of permanent school levy in March

“They would always talk to me about, ‘Hey you’re going to go to college. You’re going to be great. You’re going to do something,’” Biris said. “And not only to finish college, but having a job coming out of college. After I walk off that stage on Saturday I’m going to feel whole again because both of those two were the two pieces of me that were missing. Me finishing this for them and what they wanted for me put part of those pieces back.”

At UD, Biris said he found several rocks in the Minority Engineering Program and Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center.

“The people that work there and the people in that school were amazing,” Biris said. “Especially with my mom dying my junior year, they just were there to support me. Anything I needed I could ask them. If I just wanted to vent or just talk, I could just go sit in there. Or even if I didn’t want to talk at all. They would let me sit in a quiet space. Which really helped a lot because I didn’t talk about any of this much. I don’t think a lot of people even knew. … It definitely helped because I know everyone copes differently.”

Oregon District shooting victim to receive posthumous degree from WSU

Among others, Biris mentioned several important people that helped get him through the tragedy and to graduation included Minority Engineering Program Director Laura Bistrek, current program Director Gerica Brown, Maceo Cofield in the School of Engineering dean’s office and Cynthia Payne, assistant director of academic success in the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center.

Combined ShapeCaption
Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Josh Biris received a mechanical engineering degree with honors at Saturday’s UD commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

After graduation, Biris has three months before starting his first of three rotations in the GE leadership program. Relaxing at home in Cleveland, basketball and video games are things the grad said he is looking forward to in the meantime. But most of all, enjoying some planned trips with his UD roommates.

“When I first got the call about my mom, my roommates were actually home and they saw the stress in my face and they were just there to comfort me,” Biris said. “Anything I needed. They said if I wanted to drive home right now, they would take me or whatever I need. I owe a lot to them as well.”

“I’ll never be completely whole again, but it helps knowing that I made them proud,” Biris said. “I’ll never know, but I think I made them proud.”


Commencements quick facts:

-Wright State University ceremony begins today at 10 a.m. at Nutter Center

-UD ceremony begins today at 9:45 a.m. at UD Arena

-More than 2,045 total grads from WSU and UD

About the Author