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Fred Vautour, a custodian at Boston College, makes a good living, but he isn’t rich. Still, with the help of employee discounts and scholarships, he was able to put all five of his children through the very same prestigious university where he works overnight cleaning the theater.
His oldest daughter Amy got in 1998, and he still keeps the letter on his wall.
“She broke down crying, and I broke down crying, and we hugged each other. And there’s pictures in my house of that,” he told CBS News.
“Me and my wife struggled through a lot of years, but seeing that made it all worthwhile.” His other four children proved as accomplished as Amy, since they were accepted, too. His youngest daughter, Alicia, graduates this spring with a nursing degree. Now Amy, John, Michael, Thomas, and Alicia Vautour will have attained their degrees, thanks to their dad.
“He really opened the opportunity for us,” Amy said.
“You live for your kids, so they could have a better life than I had,” Fred said.
Over time, the Vautour family has earned nearly $700,000 worth of free tuition–which goes way beyond Vautour’s salary of $60,000 a year. His wife, Debra was a homemaker who now works at Waltham Senior Center. The employee discount took $51,000 off of BC’s $66,000 tuition. Vautour said he only paid about $3,000 per year per student–scholarships helped, too.
Vautour, 62, works the graveyard shift cleaning the Robsham Theater at the college.
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At work, Vautour scrubs sinks and toilets and polishes mirror, pushing a yellow cart with his tools and supplies. In the hallways, he sweeps up scraps up paper and Windexes the windows.
Vautour recalls to the newspaper when Amy was first admitted to the school.
“I was coaching Little League with my sons, down at the park on South Street, and all of a sudden, my wife and daughter come in with a bunch of BC balloons, and there I am with the other coaches and the kids, and she starts crying, and I start crying,” Vautour said. “Then I’m laughing because everybody’s looking at me.”
All Vautour’s children were standouts in sports and academics at Waltham High School, and wanted to go to Boston College since they were young.
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“We became a big BC alumni family,” he said. “It gave me a reason to be here. I used to joke with the vice president that I’d actually work for nothing because my kids are here because of that perk. I could care less if they even gave me a raise because my kids came here.”
Vautour’s children would occasionally visit him at work in Robsham Theater when they lived on campus.
Alicia told the Boston Globe: “When I tell people my dad is a custodian here, they are dumbfounded that all five of us were able to come here. I definitely feel like I appreciate being here more than some of my friends do.”
Vautour started out as a cook at the college in 1994, and brought his children in for a meal at Corcoran Commons. Students called him “Fred the Chicken Man.” However, the hard work gave him back problems, and the long hours made it difficult for him to spend time with his family. He took the nighttime custodian job when it opened up, which let him work alone vacuuming, mopping and sweeping the theater.
Jack Dunn told the Globe that the kids didn’t get any special treatment. They got in based on their abilities.
“The bottom line is that Fred had smart kids,” Dunn said.
Now, all of the letters are framed and on display next to a maroon-and-gold clock in the family’s “BC Room.”
Amy graduated in 2002 and now works as a fundraiser.
“I think with each kid, he just got more and more proud,” said Alicia, the youngest, who graduates this year. “It will be interesting to see on graduation day. I’m sure he’s going to have tears of joy that we’ve all made it through.”
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