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'They will always be Vandals' | U of I awarded murder victims, student killed in crash with posthumous degrees

Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Guadalupe Ruiz received a posthumous degree during Saturday's commencement ceremony.

MOSCOW, Idaho — The University of Idaho celebrated the 128th commencement, where nearly 2,300 students are set to graduate this weekend. During the ceremony, the university also honored five students who passed away before they could cross the graduation stage.

Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen, the four students killed near campus last November, received a posthumous degree for their respective majors during Sunday's graduation ceremony. Guadalupe Ruiz, a student killed in a car wreck last August, also received a posthumous degree.

A posthumous degree in general studies was given to Goncalves, one in marketing was given to Mogen and one in criminology was given to Ruiz, as they were all set to graduate this year. Chapin, who was a freshman, will get a certificate in recreation, sport and tourism management, and Kernodle, who was a junior, will get a certificate in marketing.  

"These students are indeed Vandals, they will always be Vandals and we'll always remember them," said Jodi Walker, the university's director of communications. "They'll always be in our heart, they'll always have a special place. And we definitely want the families to know that. We are a Vandal family and this is what families do."

Before other degrees were awarded to recognize and celebrate the students, the victims' families were present to accept the degrees and the certificates given to Chapin and Kernodle's families.

"There'll be a moment where each of them is awarded that degree and then a moment of silence before we head into the rest of the degrees," she said.

The five students join the 2,297 students set to graduate this weekend.

Ceremonies begin on Saturday at the university's Moscow campus and will continue throughout the state through Wednesday, May 17.

Two graduation ceremonies are happening on Saturday in Moscow. Additionally, the university is inviting students who graduated in the winter of 2022 to join the spring commencement ceremony.

“Our students have endured and persevered in their time at the university and are ready to go out into the world and make a difference,” U of I President Scott Green said in a statement. “Our students are highly sought by industry because they are recognized as having the leading-edge training, skills and work ethic necessary to meet the needs of our state, country and world.”

Ceremonies begin on Saturday at the university's Moscow campus and continue throughout the state through Wednesday, May 17. The ceremonies will be live-streamed here.

For more information about the ceremonies, click here.

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