When 23-year-old Taleigh Loven walked downstairs to her family room the night of her graduation party last October, she was expecting balloons, treats and some congratulatory high-fives from her family.
What she didn’t expect was for her dad to be dressed in the same cap and shiny purple stole as she was.
When she saw that he was carrying a diploma with his name on it, she instantly burst into tears.
“My first and only thought was that I was just so so proud of him,” Taleigh told CNN. “I was like, wait did you really go to college?”
Mike Loven, 47, decided four years earlier that he was going to get his bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, the same school his eldest daughter had just enrolled in to study psychology.
“I really can’t explain the reasoning behind the decision other than that on June 6, 2016 I woke up with a premonition from God that I was going back to school,” Loven told CNN. “I was going to GCU and it was going to be a surprise to everybody.”
A few weeks later, Loven was sitting at his desk taking his first online course while Taleigh was getting situated in her dorm — with no idea that her dad was a fellow “Antelope.”
“There was no malicious or real reason for hiding it from the family — I just thought the surprise would be so fun,” the father of three children said. “I work a lot and I’m always on my laptop, so no one really knew that I was working on stuff for school all those years.”
Loven runs his own staffing company — which his father founded years ago — and has worked there since graduating high school. He always felt like college was only worth it if you were studying to become a doctor or a lawyer. If it was just going to be a four-year party, he says, better to skip it and not go into debt.
“I just never really felt it was for me, until now,” Loven said.
The toughest part about the whole thing, Loven says, was during stressful midterm seasons when his wife, son and daughter — who were all studying at various universities at the time — would ask him for help with school-related issues and he couldn’t tell him that he had his own schoolwork to worry about. That, he says, resulted in many late nights at the computer.
What’s next for the father-daughter graduate duo?
“Definitely no master’s degree for me,” Loven said. “But Taleigh is already on her way toward a master’s in psychology. I’m so proud of her.”