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Dad Spends 15 Years as a Janitor to Put 5 Kids Through College

Photograph by Getty Images

There are plenty of things that keep parents up at night (besides crying babies): Did I remember to close the garage door? Do graham crackers count as a cookie or a cracker (and if it's the former, does that mean they'll need to find a different snack to bring to preschool tomorrow)?

Fred Vautour doesn't sleep at night, but it's not because he's up worrying. For the past 15 years, he's worked the graveyard shift as a janitor at Boston College. While it has meant scrubbing toilets and mopping floors, it has also meant that his five children have been able to attend the school tuition-free.

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The $66,000 per year price per kid dropped to $15,000 because he was a Boston College employee, and then to just $3,000 each after they all also earned some scholarships. According to the Boston Globe, each kid had to earn admittance to the school just like everyone else, but once they did, it entitled them to a steep discount because of their father's employment status there.

(My kids) gave me a reason to be here.

Vautour never dreamed of being a janitor—and a night-shift one, at that—although he also didn't aspire to much beyond high school. He worked restaurant jobs starting at the age of 14 until he was 41, at which time he took a job at BC as a cook; it marked the first gig he ever had that gave him vacation and sick days. He'd feed his kids breakfast on campus before his shift, and then he'd cook for another 2,300 kids at a sitting.

After life in the kitchen took too much of a physical toll on him, though, he became a nighttime custodian, and he now makes $60,000 annually. It wasn't the money that kept Vautour going, though, but knowing what earning it meant for his kids.

"It gave me a reason to be here," Vautour said to the Boston Globe. "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.

The last of the Vautour kids will graduate this spring with a nursing degree. Yet perhaps even more touching than the incredible gift from their dad is that each of Vautour's children seems to have a tremendous sense of gratitude for what he's done for them. While some kids don't like being around their parents at all—never mind a parent brandishing a plunger or a broom—Vautour's offspring went out of their way to visit him while they attended school, and would proudly tell their friends how they got to where they are.

"I told my buddy (after they were leaving a party one night and walking through campus), 'My dad works here, and it's one of the reasons we can afford to go here,'" Michael Vautour, who graduated in 2009, told the Globe. The friend then "pulled Fred Vautour in for a hug."

The other Vautour children said they "experienced a similar reaction from friends."

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"When I tell people my dad is a custodian here, they are dumbfounded that all five of us were able to come here," Alicia Vautour said. "I definitely feel like I appreciate being here more than some of my friends do."

There are countless other parents who make sacrifices in order to send their children to college, although what seems to make this story particularly exceptional is it's difficult to discern who's more proud: the kids of their dad, or the dad of his kids. It might be a question that will keep them up at night, but if you're going to be sleepless, there's probably not a better reason.

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