‘We hoped he’d be with us:’ YSU awards 2 posthumous degrees

The Leo and Bell families accepted posthumous degrees for their late children at YSU's 2017 Fall Commencement

It was a particularly emotional day Sunday at Youngstown State University's 2017 Fall Commencement Ceremony, as two families accepted posthumous degrees on behalf of their late children.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – It was a particularly emotional day Sunday at Youngstown State University’s 2017 Fall Commencement, as two families accepted posthumous degrees on behalf of their late children.

YSU honored fallen Girard Officer Justin Leo, 31, who was shot and killed on duty in late October. His parents Pat and David Leo accepted his diploma, which he was just 11 hours short of obtaining.

“We always hoped we’d be here for this,” David Leo said. “We hoped he’d be with us. But it’s a special day and just another way the community’s supporting us — and his life and legacy can live on.”

YSU President Jim Tressel began the ceremony with a moment of silence.

Pat and David shared an emotional embrace with Justin’s Dean when his name was called. The same happened with President Tressel on stage.

The Leo’s extended a special thanks to all the YSU officials who made Sunday’s moment possible.

“It meant a lot to us,” David Leo said.

“This is a very special Christmas gift for his father,” Pat Leo said.

YSU also honored Angela Bell — another student who lost her life before graduating.

YSU’s director of events says Bell, 26, was a geology major. She passed away from cancer in July.

Bell’s mother held up her diploma for the crowd to see.

In all, more than 700 students received their degrees.

It was a particularly emotional day Sunday at Youngstown State University's 2017 Fall Commencement Ceremony, as two families accepted posthumous degrees on behalf of their late children.
Angela Bell’s mother accepts her daughter’s degree.