Posthumous degree awarded to family of Cheryl Williamson

Cheryl Williamson

Elliott Pratt

It has been just over six months since WKU student Cheryl Williamson was shot and killed over Thanksgiving break in her hometown of Louisville.

Williamson would have walked at graduation in May and celebrated her 25th birthday June 6, but a gift the family received recently from WKU marks a memorial moment in their lives to remember Cheryl.

Williamson received a degree in fashion design posthumously, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Williamson’s diploma was recently sent to her family in Louisville.

Donetta Williamson told WAVE 3 News in Louisville she felt mixed emotions when she received her daughter’s diploma in the mail.

“It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me mad that she wasn’t able to walk across the stage to get it,” Williamson said to WAVE 3.

WKU president Gary Ransdell said sending the diploma was simply the right thing to do for Cheryl’s family.

“Tragedy happens when you have 21,000 students, and that’s an unfortunate part of reality in our campus community,” Ransdell said. “So we felt like this was the right thing to do for Cheryl and her family. They are awfully proud to have that piece of paper in their hand.”

Thomas Harris had been a childhood friend of Williamson with the two living in the same neighborhood growing up. Harris said the family receiving her degree in hand serves as a huge step in moving forward with their lives.

“I think it was kind of a breath of fresh air – something they can hold onto to help them through the stages of the grieving process they’re still going through,” Harris said. “Cheryl was the rock of that family. I think this is finally something that will help them move on.”

While no arrest has been made in connection with the shooting, Williamson’s friends and family still celebrated her life Friday at Shelby Park in Louisville by selling t-shirts to raise money for a headstone.

Donnetta Williamson told WHAS 11 News that through all of the grief, having her diploma makes her proud.

“I got her diploma and I’m going to hold it forever,” Williamson said.