May 21, 2014 at 2:23 PM ET
As if finishing college wasn’t enough of a cause for celebration, Columbia graduate Ruby Robinson had an extra reason to smile—and cry—on Monday when she walked across the stage with her fresh diploma.
To her surprise, her dad, U.S. Army Reserve Captain Keith Robinson, was standing there to congratulate her. The tearful reunion was filmed by the Ivy League university for a video that has since spread across the Internet.
Robinson's dad was originally deployed to Afghanistan last fall. When he left, she understood that he wouldn't be home in time to see her graduate from Columbia's engineering program.
“I knew he had duties to do in Afghanistan,” she told TODAY.com. “I would get upset at times, but I knew he was doing what he was supposed to do.”
With her grandmother in the audience at her graduation, Robinson shook hands with the dignitaries as she accepted her diploma and couldn’t help but notice their big smiles. She was about to get off the stage when she heard everyone begin to cheer. She turned around to see her dad standing there with a bouquet of flowers.
“Congratulations, young lady,” he can be heard saying in the video, as the two embrace in a tear-jerking hug.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “There were so many mixtures of emotions and it was a just a lot to register at once. I was definitely in shock but I was relieved that he was there.”
Robinson gets to keep her dad in the country for two weeks before he has to head back to Afghanistan, where he will stay until this fall. She will be moving to California at the end of the summer to begin working for Amazon, and while Robinson is glad her dad was able to make it for graduation, she says that she will miss having him around when she moves into her first apartment and gets ready to start her new job.
“I think these situations are very bittersweet,” she said. “Obviously everyone is really excited, but it’s very temporary. He has to go back.”