From wheelchair to walking again: Kevin Hoyt’s journey to graduation

Many students use commencement to motivate themselves to buckle down during finals, but Kevin Hoyt used the dream of crossing the stage and accepting his diploma to push himself to walk again.

In the fall of 2012, Hoyt was an average CSU Online MBA student. He was working full time, had a wife and kids, and wanted to build a better life for his family.

World turned upside down

But halfway through his degree his world was turned upside down when he fell from the attic in his Utah home on New Year’s Day in 2015, crashing through the ceiling of his living room and landing on the floor nearly 20 feet below.

He spent the next month adapting to not being able to use his legs and figuring out how to move forward with life as a paraplegic.

Kevin Hoyt in intensive care unit with family
Kevin Hoyt lies in bed next to his wife and children in an intensive care unit after his accident.

“I was pretty certain I was done with school at that point,” said Hoyt, unsure if he’d be able to be successful in the classroom again.

Diving into “tons and tons and tons” of physical therapy, he was able to return to his job as an engineer at a local tech company three months after his accident. But he kept thinking about school.

“I ended up having a change of heart and decided to re-enroll and keep going and finish this out,” Hoyt said. “I knew it was going to be dramatically harder than before my accident because I take a lot more time to do anything.”

Hoyt started with single-credit courses to see whether he could handle the work, and after realizing, “You know what, I think I can do this,” he forged ahead.

The motivation of walking across that stage

“I’ve used the motivation of walking across that stage at graduation to get myself physically to that point,” said Hoyt, who spends the majority of his time alternating between a wheelchair and using canes to support himself, but he can walk short distances unassisted.

“I’ve never done it out in public, really just a few steps at physical therapy and a few steps around my house.”

Kevin Hoyt in physical therapy
Kevin Hoyt works through exercises with a physical therapist at Neuroworx in Sandy, Utah on May 4, 2017.

Cate Meyer, who worked with Hoyt as an instructional coordinator, was struck by his resilience throughout his time as a student, unaware of the physical challenges he faced while tackling some of the most challenging coursework in the program.

“I believe his internal drive to succeed and continually push himself towards his goals is amazing,” Meyer said. “There was never any mention of his ‘disability’ in our dialogue about his grades … That was why he jumped out to me as being even more special than I had realized.”

“If I were to choose to not continue going, it would not be anybody’s fault but my own,” said Hoyt, who concentrated less on the things he couldn’t do and focused instead on what he could still accomplish.

Finding a way to give back

He began making changes around his home to become more independent, installing smart technology capable of remotely controlling devices like lights, thermostats, fans, door locks and doorbell cameras.

When the time came during his last semester at CSU to complete a capstone project and develop a plan to launch a business, Hoyt decided to use his experience to help others. He worked with classmates to create a plan for a company that would empower people with mobility difficulties by installing home automation systems similar to his own.

Kevin Hoyt and son Cameron cross country skiing
Kevin Hoyt sit-skis alongside his son Cameron during a winter outing in February 2016.

“For someone who‘s able-bodied, most of that stuff is really a convenience, but it gives someone who’s disabled a level of independence they didn’t have before.”

And now Hoyt doesn’t want to leave that idea behind, and intends to launch the company – Transition Tech Solutions LLC – that grew from his time in the College of Business.

Hoyt’s challenges have shifted the way he views his work and the impact he can make on people’s lives.

“Now, I’m not necessarily as interested in the hard technical stuff, but how can I use the skills that I’ve gained prior in my life and education to do something good.”

The walk

With his family watching from the crowd during the College of Business commencement at Moby Arena, Hoyt approached the stage in his wheelchair. Rolling to a stop in front of hundreds of cheering onlookers, he slowly rose to his feet as students led a standing ovation. Hoyt crossed the stage, shaking hands with beaming faculty members. After two and a half long years, he’d finally accomplished his goal, and it couldn’t have felt better.