I-405 — Freeway An exciting evening awaited Luke Dunphy as he jumped on a motorcycle and headed home to Santa Monica to prepare for a barbecue and viewing of a Red Sox game with friends.
The single father of a 4-year-old son was on top of the world, holding two jobs he enjoyed — one of which was at a local motorcycle shop — and perhaps most importantly, having just completed the necessary 60 units of undergraduate coursework to transfer to a four-year-university.
He never made it home.
More than nine months after Dunphy died as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on the I-405 Freeway, his family will be presented with the 26-year-old former Santa Monica College student’s associate of arts degree at the board of trustees meeting tonight.
It’s the first known posthumous degree to be awarded by the college.
The family requested the degree about three months ago, hoping to teach Dunphy’s now 5-year-old son, Isaiah, the importance of higher education.
“He doesn’t grasp the significance of who his father was and the values he espoused,” Jay Dunphy, Luke’s younger brother, said. “We thought this would be a great way to have something tangible for him to hang onto and understand as he gets older.”
Dunphy was working on transferring to Pepperdine University where he planned to study business and political science. Dunphy, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, enrolled at SMC in the fall of 2007, making the dean’s honor roll in the spring of 2008.
Jeff Shimizu, the vice president of academic affairs, said Dunphy reminds him of many students at SMC.
“As I was looking at this case, it was really a heartwarming story,” Shimizu said. “He really valued education.”
Jay, his brother Ben, and a young woman who had received Luke’s kidney after the accident, plan to attend the meeting.
Dunphy met the young woman shortly before the fatal accident, learning she needed a kidney and volunteering his own, filing the paperwork to get the transplant started at UCLA Medical Center just days before his death.
It was without hesitation that he offered his own kidney, Jay said.
“She was apprehensive about accepting it because she was cautious about his motives and why someone would want to do that,” he said. “(Luke) said, ‘why keep one in the closet, someone needs it now.’”
“I’m able to and I want to.”
He would later die at the same hospital, just a few weeks shy of turning 27 and his son’s fifth birthday.
“She did receive the kidney but not by the original means intended,” Jay said.
The family is still unsure of the details of the accident, believing that Dunphy was driving between lanes when he was hit by a motorist who did not use their signals and swerved into his path. He suffered from brain damage and died about five days later.
He grew up in Manchester, N.H., the fourth of seven children to John and Mona Dunphy. Luke moved to Los Angeles in 2006 with his wife Monica and their son. The couple divorced later that year but remained on amicable terms, Jay said.
“Luke is tough to compare to anybody,” Jay said. “If I would, it would almost be like a Leonardo Da Vinci type.”
“It has nothing to do with art but he was just so good at so many different things. He was like the main character in any room and everybody knew it and yet he was so modest.”
The Dunphy family has established a trust fund for Isaiah. For more information, visit www.lukeliveson.com