The story says it all:

Two months ago, University of Central Oklahoma senior Reagan Pennington was looking forward to graduation and working as a critical care technician for Mercy Health Center's intensive care unit.

That all changed one October night when the 25-year-old from Durant was killed in a car wreck in Edmond.

Her family will be able to commemorate Pennington's academic achievements, as UCO will confer a posthumous degree on her behalf at 10 a.m. today during fall commencement at Hamilton Field House.

“Being able to receive her diploma gives me a sense of purpose and I feel it is an expression of our love for her,” her father, Grady Pennington, said.

“I am honored, yet heartbroken it cannot be her receiving it. Accepting Reagan's diploma will be one of the highlights of our efforts to honor her memory and share with everyone how special she really was,” Pennington said.

Reagan Pennington graduated with honors from Durant High School in 2003 and earned a bachelor's degree in behavioral science from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 2008. Her career path changed when her niece struggled after birth.

Her father said Reagan watched how the nurses worked to save the infant's life and said intensive care is where she needed to be. She applied for admission to nursing programs and was accepted by UCO.

“Reagan was very passionate about nursing, especially serving the critically ill,” he said.

“She got close to her patients and worried about them as well as their families.”

Her father said she also enjoyed the relationships with her peers and faculty at UCO.

“She always spoke of the accessibility of the faculty and how the Department of Nursing was like a family and how there's a strong family atmosphere in the building,” he said.

For Connie Harris, an instructor in the Department of Nursing, the feeling was mutual.

“Reagan excelled in her studies and worked well with others. She was dedicated to her goal of being a nurse who cared for those in need,” Harris said.

Harris said during Pennington's last clinical experience in the fall, she and a fellow student were assigned to an elementary school to learn about school nursing.

Though it wasn't a required activity for the course, they enlisted the support of local merchants to supply personal hygiene items for students.

“Reagan wanted to help the children whose families may not have the resources to purchase these extra supplies,” Harris said.

At UCO, consideration for conferral of a posthumous degree is primarily based upon the candidate's level of degree completion. It is awarded only if the student was within 15 hours of graduating. Pennington was within 12 hours of earning her degree.

The university will confer more than 1,000 degrees today.