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Lillo Awarded Degree Posthumously

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The student athlete managed to successfully juggle academic and athletic responsibilities.
Seahawk Soccer Teams attend the ceremony.

Seahawk Soccer Teams attend the ceremony.

September 7, 2012

Northwood University Florida President Dr. Tom Duncan recently hosted a ceremony in which Houston Lillo, a well-loved student and athlete, was awarded a degree posthumously.

The academic honor, which followed a moving memorial and tribute to Lillo this past spring, provided the opportunity for Northwood Florida faculty, staff, students and alumni to celebrate Lillo's academic accomplishments.

In moving tributes, Professor Justin Harmon, Head Soccer Coach Ty Brewer, and former teammate and alumnus Alvaro Romo all shared memories of the Northwood senior and how he managed to successfully juggle academic and athletic responsibilities while caring for family and friends.

While reminding the crowd that Northwood is a small community, Entertainment, Sport and Promotion Management (ESPM) professor Harmon said, "When one of our members is no longer with us, that impact reverberates through us all. Houston was a student that I never had to worry about. As a focused, driven, capable, and charismatic leader he was someone with a clear vision of what he wanted to do in the future. That's why I think we all took his passing so hard. We know that he was going to succeed and he never really got that chance to do the things that we knew he was capable of doing."

While reminding the audience that the posthumous degree ceremony was "not about Houston the athlete, but about Houston the scholar," Coach Ty Brewer relayed that Houston understood the balance needed between athletics and academics, sharing that the Florida Seahawk Soccer teams, donned with Lillo's number eleven on their sleeves, have dedicated the season to him and created the Houston Lillo Award, which will forever acknowledge soccer players who demonstrate themselves as "most improved players." "We think of him every day," he said.

Brewer's remarks were followed by a Prayer of Remembrance from Carol Wagmeister, EXCEL Program Coordinator and Assistant to the Dean of Students. Dr. Tom Duncan and Linda Mohr, Interim Academic Dean then invited all Seahawk Soccer Team members to the stage and presented Houston's father the degree.

President Tom Duncan, when reflecting on the campus ceremony, noted the deep affection that Northwood faculty, staff, and students felt for Houston Lillo. "Today was both a celebration of Houston's academic accomplishments, and a memorial tribute to Houston as a person, a friend, and a member of the Seahawk community." Duncan continued, "Houston's family will never doubt the love and friendship that the Northwood family had for Houston Lillo. We will continue to honor his memory annually with the Houston Lillo Award for "most improved" soccer player. Houston leaves a strong legacy of accomplishment in both academics and athletics."