Father-daughter duo graduates together from Columbia International University

Bob Hall and his daughter, Krystil Burke are graduating with their master’s degree at the same time.
Published: May. 6, 2023 at 7:47 PM EDT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s that time of year when many people cross the stage in celebration of the sacrifices made to earn a diploma or degree. This year, aside from the thousands of graduates celebrating this milestone in their lives, a father and daughter are also taking part in the festivities.

Bob Hall and his daughter, Krystil Burke are two of the thousands of graduates; however, the duo is celebrating having graduated from the same school and the same graduate degree at the same time.

“I was excited to be able to share my college experience with my dad,” said Burke, " I mean, when he had night classes, we would get dinner sometimes together in the cafeteria on campus because I lived on campus.”

Their joint accomplishment, however, was not planned.

Hall began his graduate program at Columbia International University in 2015, the same year his daughter was beginning her undergraduate career at the same university.

Bob Hall graduated from Wayland Christian University-Anchorage in 2014. He earned a bachelor's...
Bob Hall graduated from Wayland Christian University-Anchorage in 2014. He earned a bachelor's degree in Christian ministry(Bob Hall)

Hall, who is a retired Marine, said he decided to obtain his Master’s to take advantage of his G.I. Bill.

“I didn’t want my G.I. Bill going to waste. So I went back to school and when I finished up my undergrad, I still had about two years left of my G.I. Bill,” said Hall, “I just felt God saying, no, you’re going to go for the Masters of Divinity.”

The family relocated to Chapin from Alaska in 2015 when Hall accepted a job at the Columbia VA Health Care System.

“At the same time, Krystil was getting ready to graduate high school and she was looking at colleges when we pulled into Columbia. One of the colleges that was on our list was Columbia International University,” said Hall, “I had already been registered to go to Liberty University to do my master’s program. But as we’re doing the campus tour, you know, I just felt God speak to me.”

Hall made the decision to pursue his Master’s degree at the same university his daughter was interested in, and though some people may find it weird sharing their college experience with their parents, Hall said his daughter was on board.

“I said. ‘What would you think if I went here, too?’ and she just looked across from me and smiled big and wide and said, ‘Dad, that would be so cool.’ So we kind of spent the next three and a half years kind of going to school together while I was working on my master’s and she was doing her undergrad,” said Hall.

The next 8 years, Hall saw his daughter obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2018 — a program she finished in three and a half years instead of the traditional four.

Krystil Burke graduated from Columbia International University in 2018. She earned a bachelor's...
Krystil Burke graduated from Columbia International University in 2018. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology.(Bob Hall)

“It basically took me 8 years to complete a four-year degree,” said Hall, who obtained his Master’s degree in Divinity.

Burke then took a year off to work full-time in the mental health field. Afterward, she got married and returned to pursue a Master’s degree in clinical counseling.

Hall said the reason his Master’s degree took so long to pursue was because he took his time.

“I took one year off, and then there was a couple of times where I was only doing, like, one class at a time because working full time and, you know, trying to be a full-time dad and full-time husband,” said Hall, “I wasn’t really in a rush. It’s not like I’m doing it for career goals.”

Both Burke and Hall said they had no idea they were on track to graduate at the same time from their Master’s degree until a year and a half ago.

“Pretty crazy because for a while we thought we were going to be like a semester apart. Like he was going to graduate in December in the fall commencement,” said Burke, “And we’re like ‘Oh my God, we’re going to graduate together.’ It’s going exactly how we started this journey together and we’re going to finish it together. It’s too surreal.”

Burke and Hall officially graduated from Columbia International on Saturday, May 6 and their next steps include moving closer to each other.

Hall, who now lives in Melbourne, Florida, said he wouldn’t have attended graduation if he wasn’t graduating alongside his daughter.

“They could have mailed me my certificate,” said Hall, “Having spent time in the military, I spent enough time away from home. I mean, I missed so many opportunities to be with my kids and to be able to graduate, to be able to share this with my daughter, it is unbelievable.”

Burke, who is expecting a child, will move to Florida an hour and 45 minutes away from where her father moved in July when he accepted a job as a public affairs officer at the Department of Navy at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The two said they are happy to end this journey together, and both expressed excitement about what the future holds.

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