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Parents Surprised Their Son With A Congratulatory Billboard After Graduation Was Canceled

The parents of a newly minted Ph.D. recipient wanted to show how proud they were of their son in a unique way.

Brandon Truett, a University of Chicago graduate student, recently had to defend his dissertation on Spanish Civil War visual art and literature via videoconference. Though he is now receiving his long-awaited degree this spring, he won’t be able to have an in-person graduation ceremony because of COVID-19.

Since his parents, Debbie and Jimmy Truett, wouldn’t be able to see him walk across the stage at commencement, his dad paid for a weeklong digital ad on a billboard near their Conway, South Carolina hometown. (Chicago-area billboards near Brandon’s home were hard to come by).

Brandon shared an image of the billboard, which has his picture and the words “Congratulations Dr. Brandon Truett! PhD in Eng.”

“It felt weird, maybe even futile, to celebrate my achievement at home, esp as the pandemic exacerbates an already vanishing job market,” Brandon tweeted with the image. “But, I gotta say, this ostentatious display of support from my Dad, who didn’t graduate high school, has got me feeling proud of myself today.”

“At first, I was, I’ve gotta say, a little embarrassed — I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my face on that massive scale,” Brandon told Mashable. “But yeah, I thought it was incredible. A very innovative, creative way to make my achievement public since there won’t be a commencement — or at least not an in-person commencement — and there haven’t been in-person celebrations.”

Jimmy Truett told the Chicago Tribune that he was really proud of his son.

“He’s worked really hard. He’s kept his nose clean and he’s been raised to be a fine young man,” the elder Truett said.

Brandon’s tweet about the billboard has since gone viral with 7,500 retweets, 142,500 likes and 2,200 comments as of May 12, which was not at all something he was expecting.

“It has been really amazing to see people all over the world connect w my dad’s grand gesture and amplify it w their own stories of hope and perseverance. thanks to y’all for sharing,” he tweeted two days after the original May 5 post.

Brandon also gave a shoutout to the Bojangles restaurant chain whose billboard appeared in the background of Truett’s, and Bojangles sent him a thank you note and gift card in response.

Truett’s parents certainly got their message of pride in their son across in a novel way!

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