Saunders: A family celebrates graduation achievements, from Chapel Hill to Syracuse

bsaunders@newsobserver.comMay 7, 2014 

The Bridgers brothers from left: Brandon, Braxton and Bradford.


In the end, she felt she would’ve been cutting it too close, so Kym Bridgers is going to miss seeing her oldest son graduate from Syracuse University on Sunday morning.

She will, though, get to see her other son graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill’s journalism school Sunday afternoon.

When a quirk of academic majors and the calendar ended up causing Brandon and Bradford Bridgers to receive their diplomas on the same day despite being born and entering college a year apart, Kym and James Bridgers faced a dilemma: How to be in two places, 646 miles apart, at the same time.

“We made them choose,” said Kym Bridgers, of Ft. Washington, Md. “When they were home for Christmas, my husband I put our names in a hat and had Bradford pick who was going to come” to his graduation at UNC, she said.

He picked his mother’s name, which meant Pops would go to Syracuse to see Brandon receive his degree in industrial design and Kym would come here to see Bradford receive his in journalism and mass communications.

‘Cutting it too close’

Still, until this week, Kym Bridgers wanted to try to attend both. She was planning to go to Syracuse’s 9 a.m. graduation, kiss Brandon, 23, on the cheek and give him an “Attaboy,” and then catch a flight to RDU so she could be at Carolina’s noon journalism school graduation ceremony.

“It was just cutting it too close, and I was fearful of not having a flight and missing one” of the graduations, she said. “We would’ve been so disappointed” at the prospect of being stuck on an airport runway or in an airport on Mother’s Day when one of their boys was receiving his degree.

It’s not as though Bradford, 22, will just have his mother there. Cheering him on from the crowd will be his paternal great-grandparents from Princeville and his grandparents from Rose Hill. Bradford’s great-grandfather, Edward Bridgers, is the former mayor of Princeville.

The rest of the family will go to Syracuse to see Brandon walk.

Figuring I was speaking for every parent out there who doesn’t own a jet, I asked, “Couldn’t y’all convince those young’uns to attend the same school – or at least one in the same hemisphere?”

“No. No, I couldn’t,” she laughed. They didn’t really try, she said. “Brandon was in a five-year program and they just caught up with each other. Bradford started out at Maryland” – much closer to Syracuse – “but he always wanted to go to UNC.”

After one year at Maryland, she said, “he decided he needed to go to UNC.”

Bradford, who I caught just after he finished taking finals Wednesday, said, “Transferring to UNC is the best decision I’ve made in my life so far. ... I’m disappointed both of my parents won’t be here, but I totally understand the circumstances. ... They’ve handled it well.”

Kym and James Bridgers still have some traveling left, though. Their youngest son, Braxton, is at Northeastern University in Boston and is an international studies major.

“He’s our world traveler. ... He spent his 11th-grade year at a high school in China, spent a semester in Japan and is going back to Japan for his junior year,” Kym Bridgers said.

From wherever he graduates, it appears that at least both parents will get to see him walk across the stage.

Unless, of course, the 11-year-old niece they’re raising catches up with him.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or

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