When John Ewart asked for his first day off in almost 10 years, the staff at Aquinas College could hardly believe the reason.
Unbeknown to his co-workers, the part-time administration assistant had completed a Bachelor of Arts in Information and Library Studies through the Open Polytechnic and was asking for a day off to graduate in Auckland.
Despite being hearing impaired with speech difficulties associated with being deaf, Mr Ewart worked for his undergraduate degree over the past seven years, saying it was "nice" being able to study and keep working at the same time.
Mr Ewart said he had told a couple of staff about his studies but keeping it a secret was not intentional. He said he was proud of himself for completing the degree and smiled broadly when asked what was in store for him in the future.
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"Maybe look for a new job or maybe do some more studying."
Mr Ewart had his degree safely at home after receiving it at a graduation ceremony at the Vodafone Events Centre in Auckland earlier this month.
Aquinas College principal Ray Scott said over the past nine and a half years, Mr Ewart had become an important member of staff.
"It was a great surprise to all of us when we heard he had completed a diploma," Mr Scott said.
"We had to celebrate afterwards, cake and everything."
Mr Ewart is the go-to man for photocopying, laminating and other IT and administration jobs, he said.
"He's always keen and looking for work. If John runs out of things to do he gets the message around seeking other tasks."