PALMETTO -- Dr. James Briles, who lost his wife Kathleen on Aug. 3, 2009, in a slaying that shook Bradenton, got to experience a joyous moment Sunday when he took part in his son’s graduation from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Palmetto High School graduate Calvin Briles, 27, became Dr. Calvin Briles at precisely 3:02 p.m. Sunday as he stepped to the stage of the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto to accept his diploma and receive his academic hood from his father.
Calvin Briles, who is now a doctor of osteopathic medicine, was part of a LECOM-Lakewood Ranch campus graduating class of 145 doctors and 77 pharmacists.
Briles remarkable story of perseverance was one of the bright stories of the 2011 commencement.
The year 2011 also marked the graduation of the first pharmacy class from the Lakewood Ranch campus.
One of the class leaders was Erika E. Olson, a Lakewood Ranch High School and Palm Beach Atlantic University graduate.
The pharmacy graduates also included Victoria “Tori” Broome, whose family from Bradenton, the Biancos, cheered her on Sunday.
Broome, like Briles, stayed in school and didn’t give up despite serious non-academic setbacks. In Broome’s case, it was a crushed pelvis suffered in a car crash early in her LECOM career. She went to school on crutches and a walker.
“There was some talk that I should drop out, but I did not want to give up,” said Broome, who has already been hired as a pharmacist for a Target store in the Tampa area. “It took me a while, but I caught up to everyone.”
Of finally walking across the stage, Broome described it as “surreal.”
“We’re ecstatic,” said Broome’s mother, Lynne Bianco. “Tori is extremely dedicated. She never let anything get the best of her.”
When Briles was two years into the rigors of medical school he got a phone message from his dad, James. His dad’s message was tearful, telling him something horrible had happened.
“The 12 minute drive from my house in Ellenton to my father’s in Terra Ceia was excruciating,” Briles said. “When I got there, my father was leaning on the car, crying. We just hugged for 15 minutes.”
Kathleen Briles had been her son’s study partner for two years. She would quiz him from flash cards.
Had she been at his graduation Sunday, Kathleen Briles would have hugged her son and cried, he said.
“She would have said, ‘I don’t need a reason to be proud of you, because I’m always proud of you,’ ” Briles said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.