BOCA RATON, Fla. — Almost 2,000 students walked across the stage with diplomas at Florida Atlantic University's Summer graduation on Tuesday.
But for one graduate, this was a day he didn't think he would see after tragedy struck his family on Feb. 14, 2018.
Walking across the stage with a master's degree from FAU brings a flood of emotions for Dr. Ilan Alhadeff. It's something his daughter Alyssa will never get to do.
"Relieved, proud, excited, and just overwhelmed," said Alhadeff. "Tremendous support of my family, my wife, my kids, my mother, my father who recently passed, my daughter Alyssa who was taken from us."
Last year, Alhadeff experienced the unimaginable when his 14-year-old daughter was killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Alhadeff was in the middle of getting his MBA, and thought about giving up.
"I said, this isn’t worth it. My family is number one. And my wife and I talked and she said, Alyssa wouldn’t quit," said Alhadeff. "We dug deep. We said, alright, we’re gonna finish this. We’re gonna do it. Alyssa wouldn’t give up. My father wouldn’t be happy if I gave up, so we're gonna do it. So we did."
You hear him always say "we." Now more than ever, Aldaheff said the love and support of his family is everything. He even received a special mention from FAU's president during Tuesday's graduation ceremony.
"In spite of his tremendous grief, he persevered," FAU President John Kelly told a crowd of thousands at the Carole and Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium.
Even though Alhadeff's daughter is missing from the pictures and the celebrations, Alyssa inspires everything he does.
"This was for her," said Alhadeff. "I did it. I did it for her. I did it for our family."
Aldaheff and his wife Lori, who is now on the Broward County School Board, have started a non-profit called Make Our Schools Safe. Alhadeff said his new master's degree will help him move his foundation forward.
For more information on Make Out Schools Safe, click here.