Lance Neill will receive a master's degree and an approving look from his wife on Saturday.
Neill, 44, will become one of the first seven students to graduate from the University of Houston-Victoria with a master's degree of science in nursing.
"It's the most ever," said Kathryn Tart, a university dean.
More than 400 students will graduate at 11 a.m. during the university's commencement ceremonies in Katy. Afterward, Neill will partake in a pinning ceremony for the university's School of Nursing. The seven master's students will join 38 bachelor of science in nursing candidates.
It just so happens Neill, of Victoria, knows the woman who will pin the students.
"Not only am I pinning students, but also someone who is special to me," said Denise Neill, an assistant professor and Lance Neill's wife.
The accomplishment is not only exciting for the Neills, but also to the community they serve, said Tart, the dean. Victoria and the country have for years faced a shortage of nurses.
"We want to have nurse leaders," said Tart. Neill's training prepares him to educate others or to serve as the head nurse in a hospital or on a certain floor. Already, he has more responsibility at Triumph Hospital Victoria, he said.
Neill plans to do both. He will work a half-week as a staff nurse and also spend time teaching.
"I've always liked to help and to teach," said Neill.
He received his bachelors of science in education in 1988, but admits he initially tired and fell away from medicine. After becoming a paramedic, he began work as a sales associate at a local Dillards.
"I decided I would work my way up to management," he said.
After a year he realized sales was not a passion. He then began waiting tables. Still, more education kept a tight grip on him.
"It just kept pulling me back," said Neill. "I always thought about education. I guess I have come full circle: helping people and teaching."