One family, two graduates, one solution

Before the traditional pomp-and-circumstance that comes with the scheduled annual graduation ceremony of Charleston School of Law, a small congregation of people will gather on stage in the McAlister Fieldhouse on the campus of The Citadel.

There will be no music, no cameras, no special lighting, just a modest group of parents, grandparents, family members, school leaders, and two graduates: Alyssa Amonitti and Robert “Bobby” Amonitti, Jr. The former will receive her Juris Doctor from Charleston School of Law, and the latter will receive his undergraduate degree from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, which will be presented by Charleston Law Dean Larry Cunningham. The special ceremony will bring the entire family together for one memorable family celebration.

Earlier this spring, the Amonitti family didn’t believe there would be any way this could happen. With one child in Pennsylvania and the other in South Carolina and both ceremonies falling on the same day, they were torn on what to do.

“They were planning for one parent to attend one graduation and the other would attend the other one,” said Alyssa. “I really encouraged my brother to go to his graduation, but he was indifferent to it. He just wanted the family to be together, which was selfless on his part.”

There was no perfect solution, so Bobby decided to forgo his graduation and come to Charleston so the whole family could be together to celebrate.

While Alyssa appreciated her brother’s selfless nature, she wasn’t happy about the plan and decided to take a chance. She met with Charleston School of Law Dean Larry Cunningham and told him her family’s story.

“I went in assuming the answer would be no because I know it’s such a busy day and they’re doing so much already,” she said.

Dean Cunningham saw an opportunity to do something special for the Amonitti family. He contacted the administration at West Chester University and received their permission to present Bobby’s diploma in a special ceremony in Charleston.

“[Dean Cunningham] was so excited, which is so cool,” said Alyssa. “I feel like our school has always fostered a great open door community. So, I felt like I could just walk in and tell him my story.”

Bobby Amonitti has not had the best luck when it comes to graduation. Alyssa said her little brother graduated high school during COVID and the traditional celebration was cancelled. The local TV station in Oxford, Pennsylvania ran a slideshow of pictures for graduation. It was a nice gesture, but it wasn’t the same thing as hearing your name called, walking across the stage, being handed your diploma, and having your photo taken.

“It will give him that kind of sense of being on the stage,” she said. “I do think the ceremony is really important because it allows people to mark an end point and take that next step forward.”

Bobby Amonitti will receive his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from West Chester University, his sister’s alma mater. Alyssa Amonitti earned her degree in 2017 and studied Political Science.

“I am so thrilled, and I get emotional thinking about it, just because he deserves this moment too and it’s going to be cool that Dean Cunningham graduates both of us on the same day and we’ll have this moment forever,” said Alyssa, who is eight years older than her brother. “I have those memories, like being a caregiver for him growing up. I’m just happy that we get to share this moment. It will bond the two of us in a small way forever.”

Dean Cunningham reflected on this opportunity to help the Amonitti family. “Our Law School prides itself on putting students first,” he said. “That includes helping students find practical solutions to problems they encounter, which is facilitated by our open-door policy. ‘How can I help?’ is in our DNA.”

The entire Amonitti family will convene in Charleston late next week to begin a long weekend of celebration.

“Both parents will be here, my fiancé’s parents, my grandpa, and my sister,” said Alyssa. “I couldn’t be happier and that’s what Bobby wanted.”

The Charleston School of Law Spring 2024 Commencement services will be held on Saturday, May 11 at 2:00 p.m. in the McAlister Fieldhouse on the campus of The Citadel. The ceremony will also be available via livestream at