This story originally appeared on the UGA Alumni Association blog.
"Mine was the best seat in the house at the 2015 UGA graduation exercises last Saturday in Sanford Stadium. Not because I was a special speaker or honored guest but because I was sitting next to my youngest daughter as a member of the graduating class of 2015."
Bulldog 100 business owner Frank Raiford's (BBA '15) story is a bit unique. Originally a student in the late 1970s, Frank left UGA to start his business career - just three credits shy of graduating. He intended to return and finish his degree, but months turned into years and the family (Frank's wife, Melanie, is a member of UGA's Class of 1984) and business continued to grow.
Flash forward to the fall of 2011. Frank's youngest daughter, Meredith (BFA '15), is a freshman at UGA and tells her father how much it would mean to her if they could graduate together.
"I had promised Meredith that I would "finish" the last class that I needed to graduate and walk with her during her graduation. I will always remember this brief and unique time spent with "my" graduating class. I could feel the energy of youth and sense their expectations as they moved across the field and transitioned from being students to graduates."
After graduation, Meredith said "I was so proud and honored to graduate with my dad. It's because of his hard work and dedication over the past 30 years that I have been able to succeed today. It was only fitting that we got to celebrate our accomplishments together Between the Hedges. We both enjoyed every minute of it."
Earlier this year, Frank's company, Police & Sheriff's Press, Inc. was recognized by the UGA Alumni Association as a member of the Bulldog 100 Class of 2015. The business was also recognized in 2014.
Frank had this to say about this unorthodox path to a degree, "Graduation was a long time in coming. My peers from '76-'82 are ordering senior coffee, receiving letters from AARP and showing off pictures of grandchildren. My new peers have the world before them and are ready to begin their journey. My hope for each of them is to dream big, work hard, cherish the friends they have made at UGA and enjoy the journey."
Whether you consider him a member of the Class of 1982 or 2015, we know that Frank, as well as Meredith, will represent the Bulldog family with pride wherever they go. Congratulations on graduating!