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A time to celebrate and honor

Emily HernandezEmily HernandezNothing could stop senior Emily Rose Hernandez, above, from walking across the stage when she graduated from UNT, not even being paralyzed from the waist down.

During her commute to UNT in August 2009, one of the wheels on Hernandez's truck came off, causing her to drive off an overpass. She broke her neck, shoulder, wrist and ribs, and her lungs collapsed twice. Her brain hemorrhaged and her spinal cord was injured, leaving her legs paralyzed.

"After my wreck I was determined to get my life back on track ASAP," said Hernandez. "I re-enrolled at the College of Visual Arts and Design at UNT the following August."

Hernandez graduated May 10 with two degrees -- one in visual arts studies and the other in studio art.

Hernandez decided not only that she wanted to earn her degrees and graduate, but that she wanted to be able to walk across the stage during the ceremony. After several years of rehabilitation she saw that dream come true -- but with the aid of costly braces.

The braces will allow her legs to support her again and, ultimately, to walk.

"I have been putting my entire heart and mind into earning both of my degrees within a four-year time period and achieving what I've been working so hard for since my wreck: walking across that stage," Hernandez said.

— Natalie Caballero, student assistant, and Monique Bird, News Promotions

Above, Emily Hernandez (Photo by Michael Clements / URCM)

Right, President Neal Smatresk congratulates Emily Hernandez as she crosses the stage with the help of braces. (Photo by Ahna Hubnik / URCM)

graduation proposalCommencement proposal

A 2012 engineering graduate Isaac Olowogbade saw graduation as the perfect chance to surprise his girlfriend Elizabeth Odeyemi.

Just before President Neal Smatresk closed the May 9 ceremony, he called Olowogbade to the stage. Odeyemi then was escorted to meet him at the front, and Olowogbade emerged playing K-Ci and JoJo’s song All My Life on his saxophone.

As he walked toward her, Odeyemi saw a jewelry box inside the bell of his saxophone.

That’s when she realized for sure what was about to happen.

After he finished the song, he offered her the ring and asked her to marry him.

“It was the best experience I’ve ever had,” she said. “The personal touch he put into it was amazing, and I really appreciate UNT for allowing him to do that. It was so special, and I will never forget that day.”

Olowogbade said he’d been planning the proposal since January because he wanted to show her and the world how much she meant him.

“What better way to do that than at graduation in front of everyone?” he said.

A public proposal was out of character for the reserved Olowogbade, so Odeyemi remained unsuspecting, he said.

To make the proposal perfect, he took the ring to have it polished the day before graduation. He was on schedule to arrive at the jeweler’s shortly before closing, but ran out of gasoline on his way. He ran the rest of the way to store and arrived just in time to have the work done, he said.

After that, another shopper, Jarrod Hamlin, offered Olowogbade a ride to a gas station and then back to his car .

The couple is planning wedding for May 2015.

—Matthew Zabel, University Relations, Communications and Marketing.

Isaac Olowogbade falls to one knee as he asks his newly graduated girlfriend, Elizabeth Odeyemi, to marry him. (Photo by Gary Payne / URCM)


Elvis Madurai posthumous degreeCelebrating their father

Also, during the May 9 evening ceremony, Elvis Castello Madurai’s 8-year-old and 19-year old sons accepted a posthumous degree on behalf of their father.

Madurai died after a heart attack just two months before graduating from the UNT College of Education. His wife said the aspiring middle school teacher was nearly done with his interdisciplinary studies degree and was finishing a stint as a student teacher at Draper Intermediate School in Wylie.

—Monique Bird, News Promotions

President Neal Smatresk hugs the sons of Elvis Castello Madurai as they accept their father's posthumous degree. (Photo by Gary Payne / URCM)

Posted on: Wed 14 May 2014

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