One Thousand Days Transformed - The Campaign for Cedarville
Rufus Mathew visits with his parents through social media

International Reunion at Commencement

by Alex Boesch, Student Public Relations Writer

Graduation is a special time for any student, but for Rufus Mathew, a surprise fundraiser, bringing his parents from Bahrain to the United States for the event, will make walking to the stage to receive his diploma even sweeter.


Mathew, a computer science student from Bahrain, has only been able to see his parents in person every 2 1/2 years while living in America. The high cost of traveling to the United States forced Roby and Suja Mathew to stay in contact with their son via FaceTime or social media.


Every parent wants to see their student graduate, but for the Mathews, this didn’t seem like a possibility.


“For them to be able to come celebrate my graduation was something I knew could not happen,” Mathew said.


Behind the scenes, a secret GoFundMe fundraiser sought to bring Mathew’s parents to the United States for the May 7 ceremony. Junior Sarah Colgan from Raleigh, North Carolina, was among those behind the effort.


"The fundraiser to bring Rufus' parents to the United States was a labor of love from the Cedarville community,” said Colgan. “Rufus has meant a lot to so many people here at Cedarville. He has touched the lives of those around him in multiple ways, so his close friends got together to give him a very special "graduation" present.”


Mathew has poured into the university’s students, serving as student body president for the 2021-22 school year. In this role, Mathew has represented more than 4,000 undergraduate students through a tumultuous pandemic and advocated for minorities on campus by presiding over the student diversity panel. 


Colgan and many close friends revealed the secret fundraiser, which raised over $4,500, to Mathew at a surprise party through a video his parents had prepared.


“I was shocked,” Mathew said. “I felt so undeserving. There were freshmen and professors who taught me in one class there. They were so kind to me.”


Mathew’s parents were able to attend the party via FaceTime to watch his reaction and celebrate with friends, who honored Mathew by providing all his favorite Indian dishes and desserts for the event.


“It’s the most excited I have ever been,” Mathew noted. “Everyone keeps saying they are looking forward to meeting my parents. I plan on introducing so many people to them. This kind of love transcends cultures and languages.”


Cedarville University will hold the 126th annual commencement Saturday, May 7, in two ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Both programs will be held in the Doden Field House. Mathew will walk in the morning ceremony.


Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,715 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including the Bachelor of Science in computer science, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about the University, visit

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