Family legacies are important at the University of Missouri. Nowhere is that more clear than at commencement. Parents, grandparents and other relatives cheer as their graduates cross the stage to collect new MU diplomas for the family archives.

Robert Hamilton’s family has that Mizzou heritage. His grandfather earned master’s degree in wildlife biology from MU; his father, a law degree. Hamilton will join the graduate alumni ranks at commencement exercises this weekend (Dec. 16–17).

Unlike his forebears, however, Hamilton earned his Tiger stripes, in part, through online learning. While serving as chief biomedical engineer for the Veteran's Health Administration in Kansas City, he made time to successfully complete two master’s degrees: health administration and health informatics 

“Online education has made a significant difference in the lives of thousands of people who otherwise would not be able to get a degree. We are lucky enough to have these options available, but it is up to us to pursue those resources,” Hamilton said in a video addressed to his fellow graduates on the online commencement web site.

Hamilton is one of 425 members of the online class of 2016. Other graduates include a 22-year-old Missouri woman who has earned her bachelor’s in health science and a 72-year-old California man who will receive an educational specialist degree.

“Being able to juggle work, school and the surprises of everyday life is no easy task, but it is doable. For anyone considering going back to school, pursuing an advanced degree, or even getting started, I would highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunities within online education,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton’s remarks were echoed by David Kurpius, professor and dean of the Missouri School of Journalism. “The focus, dedication and perseverance to earn a degree in an online environment is admirable,” Kurpius said in a filmed address for Mizzou’s online commencement ceremony. “Your efforts chart a path to better yourself, the people around you, the places you work, and the communities in which you live.” 

Hamilton and Kurpius’ remarks appear on the commencement website, at online.missouri.edu/commencement. Graduates can use the site to share photos and their friends and families can use the site to write congratulatory notes in the online guest book.

“The congratulatory messages that faculty, friends and relatives add to the online guest book remind us of the broad community we serve and the pride our graduates feel as a result of their achievements,” said Kim Siegenthaler, Mizzou Online director.

“Make no mistake: Higher education is challenging," Siegenthaler added. “But these hundreds of online graduates prove that distance is no barrier to learning.”

Members of the online class of ’16 live throughout the United States and as far away as Singapore. Diplomas awarded to online graduates as part of fall and summer commencement this year include 64 bachelor’s degrees, 293 master’s, 43 doctorates and 31 educational specialist degrees.

For more information about the on-campus graduation ceremonies, please visit the Registrar's commencement page at commencement.missouri.edu.