University of Minnesota performs one-student graduation ceremony so his dying father could be present

MINNEAPOLIS – Commencement at the University of Minnesota is not scheduled until May. But on Monday the university made a rare exception.

U of M engineering student Collin Brown was presented with his diploma early so his dad could see him graduate.

Ken Brown is in the late stages of a four year battle with ALS.  Lately his condition has been declining more rapidly.

“It’s huge,” said Ken Brown, speaking slowly and deliberately at his Champlin home before the ceremony.

“Ken’s goal all along has been to be able to see him graduate,” added Ken’s wife, Patti.

U of M president Eric Kaler hosted the ceremony at his residence. His voice cracked as he welcomed Ken Brown and a few dozen guests.  “I’m really glad we were able to do it for the family,” Kaler said.  “I know it means a lot to them.”

Once handed his diploma, Collin hugged his father before the two exchanged fist bumps.  Guests smiled, wiped away tears and applauded.

Ken Brown was diagnosed with ALS during his son’s freshman year.  “It’s been a big formative part of all my college years,” said Collin Brown, “so I think it’s a good kind of end and conclusion to all of that.”

Collin still plans to participate in the university’s May commencement.  If his father is able, Ken Brown still hopes to attend.  But that’s looking less and less likely.  “The hospice doctor thought that it would be about Easter – and May would be a stretch,” Patti Brown said.

The Browns’ older daughter Keegan graduated from the U of M two years ago.  Ken was able to attend Keegan’s ceremony, but wanted to live long enough to see Collin receive his diploma too.