Reba Whaley has one wish: To see her only daughter graduate from Appalachian State University.
That hope dimmed in recent weeks. Graduation day is Dec. 10, and Whaley, who had breast cancer that advanced to her liver, was slipping away in Charlotte.
So Appalachian State came to her.
On a day’s notice on Nov. 4, three of the university’s top officials piled into a car and drove the two hours from Boone to Whaley’s apartment.
There they put on black gowns and mortarboards. At her bedside, they thanked Whaley for sending her daughter, a studio art major, to Appalachian and said what an asset she had been to the school. The school’s chancellor has already commissioned her art.
Then they held a graduation ceremony, presenting student Sloane Whaley, reading the formal language that conferred her bachelor of fine arts degree and instructing her to move the tassel on her mortarboard from right to left.
Reba Whaley, her eyes closed, no longer able to speak, her hand in her daughter’s, smiled.
“It was just a special gift to see the mom smile,” said Dean of Students J.J. Brown, who was part of the Appalachian contingent. “There were tears everywhere. It was just a real honor to be present in that moment.”
Whaley passed away five days later at 49. Her memorial service was held last Saturday.