COVID commencement: A mother's dream comes true

Photo of student Samira Champlin
June 10, 2020

Losing out on a traditional commencement ceremony was one of the most disappointing aspects of the COVID-19 quarantine for many University of Minnesota students and their families.

But at least one Gopher family had a different idea.

With the easing of Governor Walz’s social gathering restrictions, Samira Champlin's family decided to have a surprise graduation celebration for her at their cabin in Blackberry, Minnesota on Sunday, May 24.

Her degrees—one in computer science at the College of Science and Engineering, and the other in Mandarin through the College of Liberal Arts—were conferred by her grandfather Keith Champlin (Electrical Engineering ‘54; M.S., Ph.D. ’58), a professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering; and her aunt Michelle Champlin Bergner (Electrical Engineering ’91, Mathematics ’92, M.B.A. ’94), an adjunct professor in the Carlson School of Management.

“Ever since Samira was accepted by the U and in CSE, it has been a dream of mine to have her Papoo confer her degree to her,” said her mother, Aleya Champlin (J.D. ’91). 

“I cannot imagine anything more touching and it chokes me up just thinking about it,” she added. “But with the complex logistics of commencement exercises, I was starting to have my doubts that this could ever happen. Then COVID-19 changed the world, and in a small way made my plan take on a whole new life. Since Samira also earned her B.A. in Mandarin Chinese in May, the plan was to have her Auntie Michelle, in her MBA hood and gown, confer Samira’s CLA degree to her, as well.”

And as ardent Gophers, the extended Champlin family has a long history at the University of Minnesota. Graduates, current students, and avid supporters also include:

  • Judson Champlin, Electrical Engineering ’86
  • Peter Bergner, Electrical Engineering ’90, M.S. ’93, Ph.D. ’97
  • Keith “Saji” Champlin, Computer Engineering, Class of 2023
  • Marian Champlin, U of M Women’s Club Vice President for Scholarship Fundraising

During her four years at the Twin Cities campus, Samira Champlin received the University of Minnesota Presidential Scholarship and made the CSE Dean’s List for “superior academic performance.”

Edited with permission from Minnesota Alumni magazine; original story by Lynette Lamb.

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