Nolan Kelleher (left) participates in a surprise backyard commencement ceremony planned by roommate, friend, and AEC student Gordon Yoder (right).

Backyard Commencement Celebration

It's commencement day. The day you've been waiting for. The culmination of all of the exams, presentations, research hours, studying and papers has arrived. It is finally time to put on the cap and gown, turn the tassle, grab your diploma and celebrate because, well, you deserve it.

But, what happens if you can't actually attend your commencement ceremony? We hope this never has to happen to you, but on the off chance that you have another commitment at the same time as your commencement ceremony, we hope you have a friend like Gordon Yoder.

Nolan Kelleher is a University of Florida student who accepted a job and would be moving instead of participating in his own commencement ceremony. When his roommate, Yoder, found out about this, he immediately started planning a surprise commencement ceremony. Kelleher's friends were invited, the backyard was decorated and idea became a reality.

"We wanted to have some type of party for him [Kelleher]," said Yoder. "We had about 30 people show up to celebrate."

Yoder even designed a commencement program for all of the attendees.

"I wanted it to be as real as possible," said Yoder. "I emailed President Fuchs to see if he would come and give the commencement address, but he was unable to do so."

Instead, Yoder stood in as the commencement speaker, but President Fuchs found his own way to particpate.



When Nolan Kelleher was unable to attend his own commencement ceremony, roommate and AEC graduate student Gordon Yoder contacted President Fuchs. See what happened for yourself.


Just in case you missed your commencement ceremony, we added Yoder's commencement address below.

Welcome... When searching for the the right words to say in regards to your many endeavors, I stumbled upon some words of wisdom from Michael Scott. "When a man is laying on his death bed, there are four things going through his mind. Was I well loved? Did I express myself? Did I let my light shine through? Will an attractive woman cry at my funeral? Did I achieve success and own real estate?"

As I look across all the students sitting here, you were all loved. The crowd is evidence of that. Did you express yourself and let your light shine through? Through many quick-witted comments, the bear hugs, goofy smiles, sincere compliments, the smell on your head and the shine on your shoes (sorry that was backwards), you have made an impact and will be missed. Good luck Nolan and we will miss you, buddy.

Congratulations to all of the UF graduates!