A mother who spent every class her quadriplegic son took diligently taking notes has been awarded an honorary degree in a tear-jerking graduation ceremony moment.

Judith O'Connor stepped in to help her son's studies as his disability meant he was unable to take notes in class, Fox40 reported. Two years of her help pushed her son to suggest to the university administration that his mother should get an honorary degree.

"I was totally blown away, I was trying to stay in the background," O'Connor told KTLA5. "I was just helping my son."

O'Connor was taken aback at her son's graduation when the announcer said that the university wanted to hand her an honourary degree. Reports said that the announcer was close to tears as she called O'Connor a "special individual".

O'Connor's son Marty became quadriplegic after falling down a flight of stairs. "As a mom, you just want to help your kids get through things," O'Connor told local reporters, "and I've always believed in him".

Marty said that after his accident, he underwent vigorous physical therapy but found he was not mentally fulfilled. That's when he decided to enrol at Chapman and gain his MBA.

He was also able to study with the help of a $10,000 scholarship through the organisation, Swim With Mike.