Camille Gregory, UBC Student With Cancer, Received Degree Before Dying

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Camille Gregory (seated) accepts her Bachelor of Sciences, major in Chemistry, in a private ceremony at Surrey Memorial Hospital. (YouTube)
Camille Gregory (seated) accepts her Bachelor of Sciences, major in Chemistry, in a private ceremony at Surrey Memorial Hospital. (YouTube)

Camille Gregory wanted just one thing: to get her chemistry degree before she died.

The 23-year-old University of British Columbia student got her wish in September, as the university awarded her degree in a private ceremony just four days before she died of skin cancer, said a UBC news release.

The North Delta-born woman entered UVIC's Chemistry co-op program in 2007 after graduating from Seaquam Secondary School. She spent two years there before being diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

Gregory transferred to UBC's Chemistry Honours Co-op Program in 2010, allowing her to be closer to her family and continue her studies.

And she didn't miss a beat.

Gregory became a straight-A student and took co-op positions outside Canada. She did a posting with Bayer Pharma in Berlin in 2011, and while there she took a bike trip to Poland.

The cancer spread to her liver, but she still didn't slow down. She entered her final year of classes in Aug. 2011 and even joined an Undergraduate Honours Research Project with Dr. Mark MacLachlan, a researcher in molecular and organic chemistry.

"Camille was a motivated and enthusiastic scientist - she accomplished more in her first 4 months in our lab than most students do in a full year," MacLachlan said in a news release.

Gregory completed the requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree, major in chemistry, in July 2012. She celebrated by cheering on her country at the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games.

Her condition got worse when she came home in September. She was admitted to Surrey Memorial Hospital, knowing it was the end of her life.

Gregory told her father she wanted just one thing: to get that piece of paper that testifies to academic excellence.

UBC arranged a small ceremony at the hospital on Sept. 13. The head of UBC's chemistry department, as well as an associate dean and associate vice-president, presented her with her bachelor's degree.

She died four days later.

UBC just completed a round of graduation ceremonies. And as students walk across a stage to accept a piece of paper and a hearty handshake, Gregory is ever-present in the thoughts of university professors who call her a source of "inspiration, courage, determination and achievement."

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