Mom getting degree same day as son at CMU captures Google's attention

Evan James Carter
The Detroit News

Sharonda Love-Wilson of Flint said she was surprised when the search engine giant Google asked recently if it could include a commencement video of her and her son in its Year in Search compilation.

"Of all the people that have done stuff this year, you want us?" Love-Wilson remembered thinking of Google's request in November. "I was honored."

Sharonda and Stephan Wilson hug during Stephan's commencement ceremony at Central Michigan University

The May ceremony had already turned the former 911 operator and her son, Stephan Wilson, into internet sensations.

Wilson, 24, had expected to graduate from CMU in May with a degree in music theater. Love-Wilson, 46, was supposed to graduate from Ferris State University on the same day but decided to skip her own commencement to attend her son's.

In a twist that lit up the internet, Love-Wilson didn't have to miss her graduation, earned decades after high school. CMU had received permission to hand out Love-Wilson's degree along with her son's.

The video of the mother and son hugging after receiving their degrees has been viewed more than 3.4 million times on Facebook and Twitter. The Google video was published Wednesday, with Love-Wilson and her son making the cut.

Every year, Google creates a video highlighting interesting or significant events that happened over the past year. This year, at the 49 second mark, it includes what Love-Wilson described as her "moment."

That's when Central Michigan's president, Robert Davies, conferred a bachelor of science on Love-Wilson on behalf of Ferris State, where she had pursued a degree in business administration. Mother and son hugged and CMU's media captured the embrace that ricocheted around the internet.

Love-Wilson said she was surprised when Davies announced she would be receiving her degree that day.

"When it went viral, I thought, 'I'm just a mom and that's what mom's do, they make sacrifices,'" Love-Wilson said.

Stephan Wilson poses with his mother Sharonda after they both received their degrees at Central Michigan University's May commencement. Sharonda received her degree even though she attended Ferris State University

Ferris State archivist Melinda Isler could find no other time when another university conferred a degree on Ferris' behalf. 

"I am so very glad that President Davies (handed out the degree)," said Ferris State President David Eisler. "The emotion of the moment is priceless and it was exactly the right thing to do.”

Love-Wilson did a segment on CNN on Mother's Day after the commencement made news and would have gone on "The Ellen Degeneres Show" if the scheduling had worked out.

Stephan Wilson, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina now, said Thursday that the video "makes me so happy," especially now that he's living in South Carolina and away from his mom. 

"My father has supported me in way of gifts and my mother in way of pressure," Wilson said. "There would be no me without them."

Wilson said he and his mother butted heads over academics throughout the years and said she pushed him while he was struggling with school. Graduating with his mom made the moment that much more meaningful, he said.

Sharonda Love-Wilson said his school struggles were part of the reason she wanted to skip her commencement to attend his in May.

Stephan Wilson poses with members of his family at Central Michigan University's May commencement

The video is one of the biggest media moments CMU has been a part of, said Ari Harris, assistant director of university communications.

"Commencement is such an important time for students ... in this case it was the whole family that was celebrated," Harris said. "We were so thrilled that the moment had gone viral enough to gain Google's attention."

Twitter: @EvanJamesCarter