Not only did Mariangela Ferreira graduate from Southern New Hampshire University with a master’s degree on Sunday morning, she got a surprise of a lifetime.
Right after the ceremony, her boyfriend, Franklin Reyes, asked her to marry him in a surprise proposal.
SNHU President Paul LeBlanc was secretly in on it.
Ferreira had been asked by university staff to meet with LeBlanc after the ceremony for a special meet-and-greet. Reyes waited backstage and approached Ferreira with flowers.
“I was just talking to the president and thought he was just coming to congratulate me, ”Ferreira said.
Reyes got on one knee and she said yes. The big screen also displayed the words, “Will you marry me?”
“I wanted to do it on her big day,” Reyes said. “I know this was a big achievement for her so I wanted to make it very exciting with a secret proposal.”
The couple met online and live in Staten Island, N.Y.
Ferreira was among 4,300 who graduated in person from SNHU’s online programs during five commencement ceremonies held over three days. She received a master’s degree in human resources management with a 4.0 GPA.
In all, the university handed out 41,158 undergrad degrees and 15,820 graduate degrees from 2020 and 2021. This was the first in-person ceremony since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
LeBlanc spoke of a young boy who kept yelling “Go daddy! Go daddy! Go daddy!” at one of the earlier ceremonies. He said graduates are from 50 states and 71 nations.
Many raised their hands when asked if they were in New Hampshire for the first time.
LeBlanc applauded the students for persevering through the COVID-19 pandemic and finishing their degrees.
NBA legend and best-selling author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar offered a video address to the graduates. He played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers.
“The most important ideal this country stands for is that every person regardless of race, ethnic origin, religion or gender identity deserves an equal opportunity to thrive,” he said.
“We may disagree with how to make this a reality for everyone, but we can’t disagree that this is an existential goal of our country.”
Daniel Gwanfogbe came from San Francisco with his wife, two children and parents to celebrate. He graduated in 2021 with a degree in health care management and informatics.
“I brought them on purpose so they can see someone graduating and inspire them,” he said of his 12-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.
He said he worked while pursuing his degree online.
After the ceremony, Ferreira said she was shocked Reyes arranged the surprise proposal.
“I am just excited for the future,” she said.
They hope to get married next year.