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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

At 18, Young Graduate Has Big Dreams

Spencer Lane stood out at Old Dominion University's graduation ceremony, and not because he's among the youngest in the school's history.

He's just tall.

Lane has grown nearly a foot since enrolling five years ago at the age of 13. At 6-foot-7, the 18-year-old's head appeared to hover above a sea of black graduation caps Saturday.

Lane skipped high school, not because he was looking to get ahead, but based on the advice of his doctor. The Virginia Beach teen has Crohn's disease, a chronic disorder that causes severe digestive problems, making it difficult for him to sit for extended periods.

A traditional high school schedule was out of the question, and his parents knew he was smart enough for the work.

Lane entered the university as a baby-faced teenager who was unsure how he might fit in with older students. He graduated five years later near the top of his class with a 3.91 grade-point average and a first-of-its-kind engineering degree in modeling and simulation. He was among four students who earned a degree in the program, the only one like it in the country, according to ODU.

In the fall, Lane will head to Cambridge, Mass., where he's earned a research assistantship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's prestigious robotics and aerospace robotics graduate program.

Lane, who's been wearing an MIT T-shirt around campus, said he jumped out of his seat and danced around his room when he opened the acceptance email.

His mother, Michele, and other family members cheered from the upper level at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on Saturday when his name was read and he crossed the stage to receive his diploma.

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