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Broadway Star Gets Surprise Of A Lifetime When Cast Throws Her An Onstage Graduation.

Emily Walton actress

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, life as we knew it ground to a halt.

For one of the few times in history, Broadway went dark due to public health concerns. Actors like Emily Walton suddenly found themselves out of work with lots of time on their hands. Some made TikTok videos, some used the time as a vacation… and Emily went back to school!

Emily plays Janice in the Broadway show “Come From Away,” a Canadian musical based on the true story of a tiny airport that accepted 38 rerouted airplanes after the September 11 attacks. The show closed temporarily at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on March 20, 2020, finally returning in 2021.

During that time, Emily enrolled in classes at Southern New Hampshire University to finally complete the bachelor’s degree in psychology she’d abandoned years earlier. She said the coursework kept her busy and focused on her future during an uncertain time.

“I woke up every day with a with a purpose when a lot of people were struggling to find that, especially in our industry,”Emily explained. “I never felt a 100% certain I’d actually finish because I’m in my 30s. I dropped off school when I was 19 and I just didn’t know if I ever would.”

But she did!

Emily shared her achievement on social media in December 2021, and her cast and crew surprised her with a “fake graduation” party in her dressing room. SNHU found out about the celebration and reached out to the show’s producers to organize a second surprise for their talented new graduate.

When the nightly show wrapped up on January 21, 2022, cast members made an announcement in front of a full house of 1,000 people. Actor Joel Hatch told the crowd, “We’ve been apart for about a year and a half, and we have missed a lot of very special events in our family. And tonight we want to share a very special event with you.”

SNHU’s president and CEO Paul LeBlanc then took the stage with Emily’s framed diploma, and cast members scurried over to deck her out in a blue cap and gown right then and there. Emily was visibly moved as she realized what was happening!

“To have something that I’ve been quietly pursuing on my own without a lot of fanfare and to have it be acknowledged with so much fanfare is really incredible and makes me feel very proud and loved,” she said.

We can feel the love, too, Emily! It’s wonderful to see coworkers supporting each other like this. Congratulations on your milestone accomplishment!

Watch Emily’s surprise graduation on Broadway in the video below, and be sure to share this story.

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