Father and his two sons to cross stage together at PBSC commencement

Nicholas Gray, Donald Gray, Jr. and Donald Gray III are participating in commencement together.

When Donald Gray Jr. crosses the stage Friday to celebrate the completion of his Associate in Science degree in Nursing from Palm Beach State College, his two sons will be right behind him.

Gray, 52, and his youngest son, Nicholas, 23, completed their degree this summer and have secured jobs at Palm Beach County hospitals. His oldest son, Donald III, 25, finished his degree this fall term. They will celebrate their achievement together at Palm Beach State’s commencement at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. for graduates of the Associate in Science, Associate in Applied Science, Bachelor of Applied Science and Bachelor of Science degree programs, as well as the certificate programs. A separate commencement is at 2 p.m. for Associate in Arts degree graduates.

Gray, a Navy veteran, worked as a firefighter/paramedic for about 22 years in Arizona and Massachusetts, when his sons were children.

“They practically grew up on a fire truck,’’ said Gray who was a captain for 10 years. “It was nothing for them to be sitting in a car while I ran a call.”

When the family relocated from Arizona to Florida in 2009, Gray worked as a clinical coordinator for a doctor’s office. But after the physician died, he decided to return to school to get a degree in nursing. His sons, who were working but not in college, followed suit.

They took their prerequisites at the same time, and then they all applied to the nursing program. Gray and Nicholas were accepted into the evening/weekend program and started in spring 2013, one year before Donald III. Donald III was accepted into the full-time program in Belle Glade.

“It was great going through the program with my sons,’’ said Gray, who will begin working at JFK Medical Center in January.

“He’s always been in the medical field. We’ve been around it our whole lives,” Donald III said. “It’s a good feeling finally being done with it. It was no easy task.”

Gray said they could not have made it without the support of his wife. “Three people going through nursing school is hell on wheels,’’ he said with a chuckle.

Gray says his only regret is that his father, Donald Sr., died last year before they finished the program. In honor of him, they will wear buttons with his photo.

“The one thing that brought us all together was my grandfather. He wanted his boys to get their nursing degrees,’’ said Nicholas, who works at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “We were right smack in the middle of the program. We all decided that we had to get done. We got through it together.”

“He’s with us here because he wanted to see us graduate,’’ Gray said, touching the photo on his shirt. “This is one way of letting him see us graduate.”

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