BOZEMAN, Mont. - Montana State University alumni and their families are celebrating after the university graduated 1,100 students at a commencement ceremony Saturday morning. We were there and explain why this day was so special for one woman and her family.
Over one thousand students filed to their seats at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse for a day they'll likely never forget. President Waded Cruzado kicked off the ceremony, before Board of Regents member and Deputy Mayor Jeff Krauss took the podium to say a few words about the university's year-long celebration, the Year of Engaged Leadership. He praised students for showing up and taking an active role in their lives.
With the help of Provost Martha Potvin, President Cruzado presented pianist Philip Aaberg with MSU's first honorary doctorate of Music degree.
Soon, it was the students' turn to take the stage. More than 300 graduate students and 800 undergrads made their way to the President, as she handed out diplomas. Civil engineering student Flynn Murray and her dog Layla were among them.
"It's been a very long road so, it's really fun. I'm happy to finally accomplish this," says Murray.
In 2009, with only a year left of college, Murray was in a car crash in Gallatin Canyon and suffered a spinal cord injury. She left Bozeman and went to live with her family in Minnesota.
"She was really sick and she spent five months in a hospital, rehabbing and everything and it took her a year back in Moorhead but, her heart was always in Bozeman," explains Flynn's mother Sue Murray.
Sue tells us, she knew Flynn would make it back to Bozeman, she just didn't know when.
Flynn grew up skiing Big Sky. Before her injury, she says school was important but so was skiing and climbing. After more than a year away, Murray says she was excited to return to school.
"Now, I just love it. It's my main thing and it gives me a lot of purpose and I enjoy it much more," says Flynn.
She says she's more focused, now, and her grades show it.
Flynn and her family tell us, without support from MSU and her dog Layla, she wouldn't be where she is today.
"Without her spirit and all the support of Montana, Montana State, the city of Bozeman, Flynn wouldn't have been able to do this," says Sue.
"MSU is a great school and they've been so good and supportive to me...It's a really wonderful institution," says Flynn.
With her family in Minnesota, Sue says it's important she have a strong support system and Flynn does. After the crash, Layla was trained as a service dog. Now, Flynn says, Layla is a familiar face on campus. She says she makes folks feel more comfortable around Flynn and helps to break the ice.
"She gets me through every day. She gets me out of bed. She makes me happy," smiles Flynn.
Looking towards the future, Flynn aims to get her masters and maybe even a PhD in engineering.
"Flynn would make a great professor and I hope she can achieve that goal because I really believe that's where she belongs," says Sue.
But for now, she's looking forward to celebrating alongside her fellow fall and summer 2013 MSU graduates.