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December 2021 will be memorable for the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). This was the day when a grandfather and his granddaughter graduated from the institution together. It was an extraordinary event that will be discussed for years.

The proud grandfather, Rene Neira, aged 88, received a degree of recognition in economics, while his granddaughter, Melanie Salazar, aged 23, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. The duo donned their graduation gowns and caps and beamed with pride as they posed for photos to capture this momentous occasion.

The excitement was not limited to the family alone. The UTSA took to Twitter to share this unique achievement’s joy, captioning the post with “Family Goals!” The beaming graduates’ image captured many people’s hearts and went viral on social media platforms.


The event was a perfect representation of the bond that exists between generations and how education can be a unifying factor. It also served as a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams, regardless of your age. Rene Neira’s achievement inspires many who might feel that they have missed out on their chance to pursue higher education.

Double graduates from the same family

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Rene Neira and his granddaughter Melanie Salazar graduate on the same day at UTSA in 2021! Image credit: UTSA

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) graduation ceremony in December 2021 was a family affair. It was a day filled with pride, emotion, and inspiration as an 88-year-old grandfather, Rene Neira, and his 23-year-old granddaughter, Melanie Salazar, graduated together.

The event was a testament to the power of determination and the never-ending thirst for knowledge. Rene Neira’s lifelong dream of earning a degree became a reality, inspiring his entire family and all those who heard his story.


As Suzy Kassem’s quote suggests, age is just a number when learning something new. Rene Neira’s journey was difficult, as he had to maintain his motivation for nearly seven decades. However, his unwavering spirit and determination kept him going, and he never gave up on his dream.

The family was overwhelmed by the response they received during this special event. It was a momentous occasion that will be remembered for generations to come. Rene Neira’s achievement is a beacon of hope and inspiration for anyone who feels they have missed their chance to pursue higher education.

The graduation ceremony at UTSA was not just a family affair. Still, it was also a celebration of the power of education to bring families together and inspire people to achieve their dreams. Rene Neira’s achievement is a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue your passion and fulfill your aspirations.


Rene Neira’s remarkable path to graduation

Rene Neira received his degree of recognition in economics at the age of 88! Image credit: Melanie Salazar

Rene Neira’s dream of becoming a graduate was a long-standing one that began in the 1950s. However, his family and social responsibilities took priority, and he had to put his aspirations on hold. Despite this, his passion for urban and economic development never waned, and he became a social activist in the 1960s, participating in rallies and marches and advocating for civic engagement.

In 2016, when his granddaughter, Melanie Salazar, enrolled in an associate degree program at Palo Alto College, Neira decided to take the plunge and continue his education. At 82, he embarked on a new chapter, determined to achieve his lifelong dream of earning a degree.


Salazar shared a photo of the two of them starting their college journey together, and the post went viral, capturing people’s hearts worldwide. It was a heartwarming moment that exemplified the power of education to bring families together and inspire people to pursue their dreams, regardless of their age or background.

Neira’s passion for economics and social activism was crucial in returning to education. His career in banking had given him a deep understanding of economic development, and he was committed to using this knowledge to impact his community positively.

The journey to graduation was not easy, but Neira’s determination and perseverance paid off in the end. His achievement is a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and that education is a lifelong pursuit that can enrich your life in countless ways.


The bond between Rene Neira and his granddaughter Melanie Salazar was unbreakable. Although they never attended classes together, they always carpooled and studied side-by-side. Salazar even helped her grandpa navigate the school’s website and cheered him on when he felt lost. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges, and Neira’s health declined.

Unfortunately, Neira suffered a minor stroke at the onset of the pandemic and had to take a break from his studies. This left him feeling helpless and disheartened. Remote classes were a struggle, and his health was deteriorating. His dream of obtaining a degree was in jeopardy once again.

Despite these setbacks, Neira’s family saw how much this degree meant to him and made a special request to the University of Texas at San Antonio. They asked that he be granted a degree of recognition for his unwavering dedication to his studies. To everyone’s relief, UTSA agreed, but the family wasn’t sure if Neira would live long enough to witness this incredible achievement.


In December 2021, after a lifelong journey that spanned nearly seven decades, Neira finally received his degree of recognition. It was a testament to his resilience and determination, a moment of pride not just for him but for his entire family. Neira’s story inspires everyone who believes it’s never too late to pursue their dreams, no matter how long it takes or how many obstacles they may face.

Remembering the special occasions

Melanie Salazar, the granddaughter of Rene Neira, reflected on the remarkable experience of having her grandfather on the same campus where she was pursuing her degree. It was a dream come true for both of them to graduate on the same day from the same university.


Despite being terminally ill and under hospice care, Neira was determined to receive his diploma on their graduation day. Salazar assisted her grandfather in his wheelchair, pushing him onto the stage to receive his long-awaited degree. For Salazar, this moment was nothing less than magical. She was overcome with emotion as she witnessed the culmination of her grandfather’s decades-long journey.

Salazar could not hear the crowd’s thunderous applause as Neira was awarded his degree, but she didn’t need to. The pride and joy she felt were deafeningly silent. Looking back, Salazar knew this experience would stay with her forever, a testimony to her beloved grandfather’s strength, determination, and perseverance.

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