CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- A West Philadelphia mom got the surprise of a lifetime at her graduation ceremony at the Kimmel Center.
There was excitement and joy as hundreds of Peirce College students received their hard-earned degrees Monday night.
Among them was Tondaleya Robinson, a mother of three who went back to school to complete her degree.
The 43-year-old had no idea that her son, Cpl. Paul Robinson, drove from his Marine Corp base in Virginia to personally present her degree.
"She's given to us her whole life; it's about time I give it back," Cpl. Robinson told Action News.
When the moment came, the audience stood to its feet applauding. Mom was overwhelmed with emotion.
"Her reaction was exactly what I was expecting. I didn't expect anything less. I know my mom is a big cry baby," Cpl. Robinson said with a smile.
Cpl. Robinson was only in town for one night. He wasn't even sure he'd be able to make it to his mom's ceremony. He only found out Monday morning.
"Soon as I went in to work today, my chain of command was like, 'Hey Robinson, what are you doing here today? Aren't you supposed to be home with your mom?' I said, 'Roger that, sir,'" Cpl. Robinson said.
"I'm already overjoyed, but this is just overwhelming. Words just cannot express. This is the next best thing to my husband," Tondaleya said.
Tondaleya's husband, Charles Robinson, Jr., died three years ago after battling diabetes.
Cpl. Robinson told Action News he joined the military to honor his father, who always dreamed of his son serving his country.
Mother and son have had to be strong for each other since his passing.
"I put a lot of things that I wanted to do on hold. I raised my children, and I wanted to go to school," Tondaleya said.
And now she has her bachelor's degree in Human Resource Management, with her son by her side.
"My mom is one of my biggest inspirations," said Cpl. Robinson. "Throughout the passing of my father, I never saw my mom be so strong. We're all taller than her now, but we don't forget who mom is. We know. We're all proud of her."
Marine surprises mom at her graduation, presents degree