Northwood University Florida President Dr. Tom Duncan recently hosted a ceremony in which Houston Lillo, a well-loved student and athlete from Wellington, was awarded a posthumous degree.
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.
“When one of our members is no longer with us, that impact reverberates through us all,” said Harmon, an entertainment, sport and promotion management (ESPM) professor, while reminding the crowd that Northwood is a small community. “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 said that Houston understood the balance needed between athletics and academics, sharing that the Florida Seahawk soccer teams, donned with Lillo’s number 11 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. Duncan and Interim Academic Dean Linda Mohr then invited all Seahawk soccer team members to the stage and presented the degree to Houston’s father.
When reflecting on the campus ceremony, Duncan noted the deep affection that Northwood faculty, staff and students felt for 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 said. “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.”
Northwood University is committed to the most personal attention to prepare students for success in their careers and in their communities; it promotes critical-thinking skills, personal effectiveness and the importance of ethics, individual freedom and responsibility.
For more information, visit www.northwood.edu/fl.
Above: Houston Lillo