When Di’Angelo Groves walked across the stage at his college graduation in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday, he was supposed to do it with DeEbony Groves, his sister.
Both of them were to get their diplomas from Belmont University, but instead, Di’Angelo was joined by his mother, Shirl Baker, who proudly accepted DeEbony’s diploma on her daughter’s behalf. DeEbony Groves, 21, was one of four people gunned down at a Waffle House restaurant two weeks ago.
“Almost two weeks ago our community suffered an unimaginable loss,” Robert Fisher, Belmont’s president, told the audience. “While our hearts were broken, today we have the chance to celebrate DeEbony’s life together.”
Baker marched across the stage to a standing ovation as she received her late child’s diploma, after briefly comforting her grieving son, the first graduate to walk.
DeEbony Groves was in her senior year studying social work when authorities said she was fatally shot at random alongside her friend, 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva, in the early morning hours of April 22.
At her funeral, Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer recounted hearing from survivors how DeEbony had spent her last moments singing gospel songs inside the restaurant. The last song that DeEbony and her friend had been heard singing was “Jesus Loves Me,” Ehmer said.
Fisher mentioned that singing during Saturday’s commencement ceremony, suggesting that she had made it to “heaven’s gate.”
In her honor, Belmont has announced that it is renaming a social work scholarship after DeEbony Groves.
“DeEbony was proud to be a social work major and was looking forward to changing the world as a professional social worker,” the university said, adding: “Her legacy will live on through this special scholarship that will provide financial support and encouragement to generations of social work majors at Belmont University.”