But to the students who walked the stage at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Saturday, Davidson was just as much a graduate, even without the pomp and circumstance.
As Davidson's name was read at the time he was to receive his diploma, participants held a moment of silence in his honor.
“He was known as a big guy with a big personality and even a bigger heart,” said David Chasco, professor of architecture and director of the school. “Paul was a very good person who always made us laugh.”
Davidson transferred to the University from the College of DuPage in 2012. Following graduation, he was set to begin his master’s degree in architecture this fall at the University.
“Truly, Paul would have contributed to the profession,” Chasco said.
Davidson died hours before graduation, when he was struck by a car as he was riding his motorcycle to get his hair trimmed for the occasion. Davidson was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq.
“As a military veteran, Paul had a maturity and dedication that few students have,” Chasco said. “This is an unbelievably sad tragedy ... Paul will be dearly missed.”
Professor and Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts Edward Feser added, “We are stronger because we knew him, and we won’t forget him.”