Erin Rolando, like 59 other Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) graduates, will remember her December 2013 commencement day at Illinois State University as a huge milestone, the culminating experience of her years of hard work and training.

However, Rolando’s graduation day will also be remembered for having brought together her family, separated by a great physical distance, and allowing her father to be part of this great milestone.

“My father was deployed in the Middle East when I graduated from high school, so he was unable to see me accomplish that milestone,” said Rolando. “He didn’t have the technology that we are so fortunate to have this time around. For him to see me graduate from Illinois State, with one of the most challenging and rewarding degrees that there is to offer, was truly a blessing.”

With the use of the FaceTime application on an iPad, Rolando’s father, Major Bruce Rolando, was able to watch his daughter participate in the MCN reception while 8,000 miles away in Afghanistan. Describing it as “a moment I will never forget,” Major Rolando was happy to be able to see and hear the ceremony and watch this “very special day in” his daughter’s life.

Prior to the ceremony, the Rolandos and MCN staff worked together in hopes to capture with technology the precise moments that would enable Major Rolando to be present and watch his daughter walk across the stage to receive her nursing pin and the nursing pledge. With so many elements (i.e. timing, Wi-Fi service, iPad and FaceTime capabilities) having to work together, no one knew for certain if the moment could be captured and Rolando didn’t get her hopes up. But it worked out, and Major Rolando was able to hear and see the ceremony.

The family connection was a moving experience for the Rolando family as well as the entire MCN family. Assistant Dean for the Undergraduate Program Dianne Clemens was reading the names of the graduates, and when she came to Rolondo’s name, she paused for a moment, and then informed the audience that Rolondo’s father was watching the ceremony from an iPad in Afghanistan.

After Rolando received her pin and the nursing pledge from Dean Janet Krejci and Associate Dean Catherine Miller, the crowd of more than 500 MCN family and friends recognized Major Rolando’s service and family with a standing ovation. Rolando says “that was my dad’s first-ever standing ovation … and he will be bragging about it forever!”