Hero with a badge, and a backpackWilliam Garay, 27, was a year away from earning his bachelor’s degree from UB in 2008 when he got word: the Stamford police department had accepted his application. He left school and began working full-time as an investigator. “I didn’t finish,” he says.
Then someone told him about IDEAL, the University’s program for adult students who started, but for various reasons, never completed getting their undergraduate degrees. In 2010, Garay returned to the classroom, taking courses at UB’s Bridgeport campus and also at its Stamford location, which was conveniently located near his job. “I’d go from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. then work the night shift,” says Garay, who will receive his Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services.
School and work complemented each other in more ways than proximity. “I had to take a lot of counseling and psychology classes, and because of them I learned to relate and listen. That’s been helpful to me every day,” he says.
One night Garay got a call that a man was waving a gun at a pool hall. He was the first to arrive and gave chase. Suddenly, the man turned, pointed his gun at Garay, and fired.
“It jammed,” said Garay who fired his own gun back. "It happened so fast. At that moment I didn’t think of anything except for my training. But afterwards, and very quickly, I realized what had happened and felt someone was with me and protecting me. I was very happy to go home to see my son."
Because of that night, he received the Blue Mass Award by the Diocese of Bridgeport. The award is given to one police officer, one firefighter, and one first responder each year. In March, the Police Commissions Association of Connecticut awarded Garay its Distinguished Officer Award.
Getting his diploma on May 5 will be equally memorable, says Garay, whose 10-year-old son, William Giovanni Garay, will be there to witness the accomplishment.
“William saw his mom graduate from UConn and she’s getting her master’s from UB,” says Garay. “To see her finish and get a graduate degree has been a big motivation for me. William wants to go to college. He’s motivated, too. I think it’s because he sees both of his parents studying and doing homework, just like he does.”