Father and son engineers will graduate Kennesaw State alongside each other

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 3, 2023

Every year, on the third Sunday in June, many people buy cards to say thank you to their father or father figure for things like teaching them to ride a bike or how to play chess or serving as a role model for them throughout their lives. 

In the Gilmore house this year, things will be reversed as dad Joe Gilmore will thank his son, Nolan Gilmore, for inspiring him to go back to college to become an engineer, just like Nolan was doing at Kennesaw State University. Now both students will be graduating this month at the same Commencement ceremony for the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SPCEET).

Photo of Nolan Gilmore and Joe Gilmore in engineering space
Nolan and Joe Gilmore

“Nolan is a person I respect,” said the older Gilmore. “He’s grown a lot the past few years so I can ask him for advice about some things, we can collaborate, and we work well together. On our senior project report, my team put him in the ‘acknowledgements and special thanks’ section of the paper alongside professors because he was a resource for us. Several times he saved us a lot of headaches with programming issues.” 

Nolan started Kennesaw State in the summer of 2019 as an architecture major. It only took one semester to realize architecture wasn’t the right fit. After considering his longtime passion for vintage computers and vintage technology, he switched his major to computer engineering in SPCEET. 

Less than one year later, in the spring of 2020, his dad, despite having already earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in the late 1990s, followed him into SPCEET to study mechatronics.

“I have been working in engineering roles for many years without an engineering degree,” said Joe. “My employer makes specialized 3D printing equipment for research labs, so the customers I work with are PhD level researchers and engineers. I realized I was communicating on their level and told myself ‘If they can do it, so can I.’”

Throughout their journey at Kennesaw State, the father and son maintained a light-hearted banter with each other with who got the better grades and who was a better student. 

“I had to figure out how to be more disciplined,” said Nolan. “My dad came in with the experience of college once before, whereas I was completely new to it, so he was generally better at staying focused.”

“I would tease him, as dads like to do, about how I got better grades,” said Joe. “But it was all in good fun.”

Both dad and son had Kennesaw State senior lecturer Charles Duvall for one of their classes.

Photo of Nolan and Joe Gilmore in engineering lab

“They are phenomenal students,” said Duvall. “I didn’t connect the dots at first that they were related, and I’m sure a parent and his or her child have come to college simultaneously before, but I can’t think of another time when they were graduating at the same time, too. It’s definitely unique.”

Joe and Nolan are excited to be donning caps and gowns alongside each other at the Kennesaw State Commencement ceremony. Joe will proudly be sporting an extra cord for graduating summa cum laude, while Nolan was just below the threshold to graduate with honors.  The two will have at least seven family members at the ceremony to cheer on their achievements, including Nolan’s sibling, who is a math major at Kennesaw State. 

After graduation, neither Joe nor Nolan will be slowing down, as Joe, a Double Owl, will be staying at Kennesaw State to finish the master’s program in Intelligent Robotics Systems. Nolan will be heading to the University of York in England in September to start the master’s program in Digital Systems Engineering. 

Until then, Joe and Nolan Gilmore are looking forward to their graduation day at KSU. 

“This is the busiest time we’ve ever had at Kennesaw State – this final push to the end,” said Nolan. “It’s engaging, but it’s just a lot.”

“We can’t even think about how we will celebrate this milestone,” said Joe. “We just don’t have the bandwidth right now. But I will say that I am proud of my son, and I’m proud of myself.”                

– Amanda Cook
Photos by Darnell Wilburn

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.