Photos by Stephanie Rivera.
While many have been celebrating the graduation of several thousand Cal State Long Beach students this week, the College of the Arts commencement ceremony held a bittersweet moment Thursday morning as the parents of design student Nohemi Gonzalez—the only American killed in the recent Paris attacks—walked across the stage to accept her posthumous degree.
“As many of you know we lost one of our beautiful and talented students to the awful violence in Paris in the fall,” said Cyrus Parker-Jeannette, dean of the College of the Arts. “Nohemi Gonzalez was a bright light among very bright students of our design department.”
With tears in her eyes, Nohemi’s mother Beatriz Gonzalez accepted the award graciously as the crowd gave a standing ovation.
“It is an honor what they have done for my daughter and I thank everyone—the teachers, all the organizations,” Beatriz said afterward in Spanish. “It’s a very emotional moment and above all I am very grateful. We are happy to be here and we would have been happier to be here with her but we know she is here present in our hearts.”
A few weeks ago the 23-year-old industrial design student was recognized as an outstanding graduate during the Alumni Awards Banquet. There too, her parents received the award in her place.
Another CSULB family member was remembered, albeit with little fanfare. A recent graduate who fell to his death in February was remembered by Lilyana Tsoi-A-Sue with an embroidery on her sash simply stating: in loving memory of wilderness Daniel Nguyen.
Tsoi-A-Sue walked Wednesday evening during the College of Liberal Arts ceremony where she was recognized for her degree in psychology. She also minored in communications and worked towards a certificate in wilderness studies—where she first met Nguyen and who she continued to take multiple wilderness classes with.
“He was one of my best friends,” said Tsoi-A-Sue.
Impressively, the 21-year-old psychology major will have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in three and a half years, once she’s completely done in December. A feat she accomplished while working two jobs and stacking up her course load with typically over 20 units a semester.
“It wasn't as stressful as I thought it would be, mostly because I would tell myself not to be stressed about it,” Tsoi-A-Sue said simply about her big achievement.
The key was to take a variety of classes to relieve stress such as taking some communications, psychology and wilderness courses in one semester.
Tsoi-A-Sue said her next step is getting a master’s degree in Social Work before tackling a doctorate degree.
The university is expected to confer more than 10,000 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during the 2015-2016 academic year—a school record, according to CSULB officials.