Those who attend college know that it’s not all about the classes themselves. College allows you to gain independence, learn about yourself, and figure out your own priorities. When Keena Turner was in college, his priority was football. He played for Purdue from 1976-1979, and was drafted to the San Francisco 49ers in 1980 before he could complete enough credits to graduate.
Many years and four Super Bowl wins later, Keena is retired from football and a proud father of three. Keena recently experienced an enormous parenting milestone when his daughter Ella graduated from Purdue – but this celebration was two-tier. 42 years after his own time at Purdue, Keena graduated alongside his daughter.
Shortly after his football career came to a close, Keena graduated from the University of San Francisco. Still, the former football star’s time at Purdue felt unfinished. Over the years, Keena and his wife Linda had tried to figure out what it would take for him to graduate. Time and time again, they hit dead ends.
“This thing kind of had life and died several times,” Keena told ESPN.
Years later, when Ella chose to attend the West Lafayette school, it felt like a sign. Filled with determination, Keena decided to complete his final two classes. With Ella’s blessing and constant encouragement, Keena studied. He worked, completed assignments, and looked dreamily towards the finish line – graduating with his daughter.
On a Saturday in May, the day had finally arrived. Repeatedly checking in with his daughter to make sure she was still ok with the arrangement (and repeatedly, she was overjoyed), Keena and his daughter graduated side by side.
“The emotion of being proud of her and seeing her make this accomplishment back at my school, back at Purdue, that would have been more than enough,” Keena said. “But then the icing of me being there and being part of it in that way and that accomplishment, it doesn’t get much better than that.”