Commencement Was a Family Affair

Amanda Ballard
May 18, 2015

There are countless proud moments in a parent's life.

From a child's first steps to the first day of school and beyond, these moments compose the richly rewarding experience of parenthood.

On Saturday, the families of more than 5,600 University of Arizona students celebrated another major milestone at the University's 151st Commencement. Thousands of families gathered from near and far to honor the new graduates and help them commemorate their accomplishments.

"There are a lot of beaming moms and dads and grandparents in the audience," said keynote speaker Jon Huntsman Jr. during his speech. Huntsman is the former Utah governor who now runs a nonpartisan organization, No Labels, which works to address the country's most pressing problems.

He also is a father to seven children and said he understands the love, support and pride associated with being a parent. To the family members in the audience, Huntsman said, "It's your day, too."

"It's days like today when you see your child growing into the person you always hoped they'd become that make it all worthwhile," he said.

About 30,000 people attended the festivities, filling the stands in Arizona Stadium to cheer on the graduates.

Although they were born three years apart, brothers Christopher Real and Stephen Real both graduated from the UA on Saturday. Christopher earned a degree in journalism, Stephen a degree in history. Their family, including a grandfather who came from California to attend Commencement, was excited to help the brothers celebrate.

"I'm just very proud," said their mom, Cindy. "I think that's what makes this so special — seeing them both graduate together."

Nathaniel Hamilton, who graduated from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences with a degree in public administration, had several members of his family fly to Tucson from the East Coast to celebrate.

"We're just a proud family from Maryland," said his mother, Tracey Gray.

Hamilton's father, Levent Gray, said he was proud to see his son's dedication to his schoolwork pay off, calling the occasion "phenomenal."

Yvonne Ng's mother said she was happy for her daughter, who graduated with honors from the College of Pharmacy.

"It's one of the biggest accomplishments in her life," she said. "I'm very proud."

Alexandra Caplan's family also was excited to see her put on a cap and gown to receive degrees in physiology and Middle Eastern studies from the UA.

"It's just wonderful," said her mom, Leslie. "Especially after seeing her put in four years of a lot of hard work — a lot of blood, sweat and tears."

Caplan's father, David, added that he is pleased his daughter will be a Wildcat for life.

"We're very proud of her," he said. "We think she made a great decision to come to the UA."

Photos by John de Dios/UANews

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