In 1997, a sixth grade teacher in Arizona penned an encouraging note on the report card of one of her students.
“It has been a joy to have you in class,” Judith Toensing wrote to Christin Gilmer, who was 12 years old at the time. “Keep up the good work! Invite me to your Harvard graduation!”
Twenty-one years passed, but Gilmer never forgot Toensing — or her note. So, as CNN reports, when Gilmer graduated from Harvard as a doctor of public health last week, she made sure Toensing was there to see it.
In April, Gilmer posted a note on Facebook in which she thanked Toensing for being “the first person who passionately conveyed the plight of people living with HIV/AIDS to me and start[ing] me on this journey.”
Harvard officials saw the letter and decided to invite Toensing to travel to Massachusetts for the T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s convocation, free of cost. Gilmer personally delivered the invitation.
During the ceremony, Toensing was given special mention by Dean Michelle Williams, who thanked her and other teachers for their hard work.
“You don’t just teach young people,” Williams said. “You inspire them, and you propel them along a path of fulfillment and service to others.”
Toensing said she was “shocked” to be invited to the graduation ceremony after all these years — but she wasn’t shocked to learn of her former student’s accomplishments.
“I have high expectations of all my students, so to hear that Christin had achieved this goal did not surprise me in the least,” she said. “I feel honored that Harvard chose to tell Christin’s story, her journey, and that I was a small part of that journey.”
Though Toensing may not have seen the invitation to a Harvard graduation coming, Gilmer said her teacher’s influence was always with her along the way. “I don’t think she knew how much she impacted my views of the world,” Gilmer told Inside Edition. “It was really humbling. I was so grateful I was given the opportunity to thank her.”
Below, watch the emotional moment when Gilmer dropped in on Toensing, still teaching in the same classroom, and personally delivered the invitation to graduation and then see a highlight of Dean Williams’ speech and Gilmer receiving her diploma.
Read the full story at CNN.