Fact Check

Trump Never Attended Any of His Children's High School or College Graduations?

The former president's complaint that he might be unable to attend his son Barron's high school graduation due to his trial spawned misinformation.

Published April 18, 2024

Updated April 22, 2024
 ( Getty Images)
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Claim:
Former President Donald Trump has not attended any of his children's high school or college graduation ceremonies, as of April 2024.
Context

Trump has been present at each of his children's high school and college graduations, according to contemporaneous reports and the recollections of other attendees.

Former President Donald Trump's attendance at his children's graduation ceremonies became a hot-button political issue?in the early days of his New York criminal fraud trial in April 2024. That's because the former president falsely claimed?the judge had informed him?he would not be able to attend his son Barron's high school graduation.?

Trump's assertion resulted another widespread — but false — claim, captured in "copypasta," that?Trump never attended any of his other children's graduations. Most of the?copy-and-pasted text?made the claim about only high school events:?

In '96 Don Jr graduated from the Hill School. His Father didn't attend graduation. In '00 Ivanka graduated from Choate. Trump didn't attend graduation. In '02 Eric graduated. Trump didn't attend graduation. In '12, Tiffany graduated from Viewpoint School. Trump didn't attend…

Other variations of the claim included?college graduations, as well.?

These claims were false. They are contradicted by reports that appeared in print at the time of the graduations, by the published recollections of former students and by the memoirs of Trump family members.?

An extensive search by Snopes provides documented evidence of Trump attending all of his children's highschool and college graduations. An earlier version of this fact-check noted the possible exception of Donald Trump Jr.'s 1996 high school graduation.?

Since that original fact check, multiple members of that 1996 class have stated that Donald Trump was in attendance at that graduation. One person, whose identity and connection to Trump Jr. Snopes has verified, provided photographic evidence to support that claim. This updated fact-check removes our previous equivocation about Trump's attendance at that event.

In her memoir, Trump's first wife, Ivana,?wrote?about school events that "my rule was that someone — me, Donald, the nannies, my parents, or a combination — had to be at every one."?

Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. attended a private Pennsylvania boarding school named The Hill School and graduated in May 1996. A photo provided by a member of the Hill School's class of 1996 provided Snopes with this photo showing Donald Trump at the ceremony:

(Hill School Parent '96)

Donald Trump Jr. attended a private Pennsylvania boarding school named The Hill School and graduated in May 1996. Snopes has yet to identify any reporting placing the elder Trump at the graduation ceremony, but a widely syndicated May 1996 column critical of him shows that he was a speaker for the school's Career Day that spring:

A quarterly newspaper called Hill Ties, is mostly devoted to Career Day '96, and quotes from the keynote address, delivered by "Mr. Donald Trump, father of Don '96."

On its first page, the newspaper took what it apparently considered the most worthwhile (for it quoted no other) passage from the speech: "I think I know a little something about life," said Trump, who inherited a reported $7-million from his father and went onward and upward from there.?

"You can't give up," Trump continued. "You are going to have times when you feel there's no light at the end of the tunnel. I had times like that and I had a choice: I could sit in the corner with my thumb in my mouth, or I could fight. My advice to you is: Punch like hell and don't take no for an answer."?

Donald Trump Jr. graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in May 2000. Donald Trump's attendance was noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Donald Trump, ex-wife Ivana, their kids Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric plus six others limoed to Old City's Novelty for Sunday brunch after Junior's graduation from Dad's alma mater, the Wharton School. Donald the Lesser picked Bruce Cooper's new joint because he liked hanging out there.

Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump went to The Choate School for high school — a private boarding school in Connecticut. A Choate student news publication from 2016 recalled Donald Trump's attendance at her graduation ceremony, citing classmate Stephen Farrell:

The only time I saw Donald Trump on campus was at graduation with his security guard. He conveyed the exact same image he does now as a presidential candidate, of importance and self-satisfaction.

Ivanka Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in May 2004. The Philadelphia Daily News?reported on Donald Trump's attendance at this graduation:?

Wharton grad/former model Ivanka Trump will be leaving her apartment at the Left Bank for one that her father, Donald, bought her a few months back. The Donald and ex-wife Ivana attended a Wharton ceremony Sunday at which their daughter got her degree. The proud parents also took in Penn's commencement Monday at Franklin Field.

Eric Trump

Like Don Jr., Eric Trump?attended The Hill School, graduating in 2002. Trump's attendance at this graduation ceremony was described in 2017 in a City & State New York report about Eric Trump's life:

When Donald and Ivana dropped him off in 1997, as knowing parents whispered and giggled at the celebrity sighting, Donald Trump asked Eric's 13-year-old roommate, "Are you going to take care of my boy?"

Students recall he wouldn't return to Hill until Eric's graduation day in 2002, an event his mother missed, apparently for the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix, a student recalled and news reports suggest.

Eric Trump went to Georgetown University, graduating in 2006. Trump attended this ceremony as well, according to a wire report?published in a variety of newspapers:?

Flash! Eric Trump (yes, those Trumps) graduated Saturday from Georgetown University with (what else?) a business degree, and the extended clan turned out en masse for the festivities: proud pop Donald and wife Melania, mom Ivana, older brother Donald Jr. and his bride Vanessa, and sis Ivanka.

Tiffany Trump

Tiffany Trump attended the private Viewpoint School in Los Angeles, graduating in 2012. In a Los Angeles Times opinion piece published?in November 2016, a classmate recalled Trump's attendance at the graduation:

Dear Donald,

I'm sure you don't remember me. You sat in the third row of my high school graduation wearing a loud salmon pink tie. Your daughter Tiffany and I had spent six years together at Viewpoint School, a small bastion of privilege nestled alongside Mulholland Highway. As you watched the ceremony, you probably didn't think it was even possible that an undocumented student would be receiving the same prestigious diploma as your daughter.

Tiffany Trump also graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving her degree in May 2016. Her graduation, occurring during her father's 2016 presidential run, was covered widely by the press, including this report from Yahoo News:

Donald Trump's youngest daughter is officially a college graduate. Tiffany Trump, whose mother is Marla Maples, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania on Sunday. …?

Ivanka shared a photo of the siblings on Instagram with the caption: "So proud of my beautiful and brilliant sister @tiffanytrump on her graduation today. We all love you very much." In addition to Ivanka, Tiffany's mother, Marla Maples, was in attendance, as well as the presidential candidate, his current wife, Melania, and their son, Barron.

Because Donald Trump's presence is documented at all of his children's graduation ceremonies, we rate claims that he did not attend any such ceremonies as "False."

Sources

Cornejo, Diana Delgado. "Opinion: To Donald Trump, from the Undocumented Immigrant Who Graduated alongside Your Daughter."?Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2016, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-undocumented-donald-trump-tiffany-20161108-story.html.

"Flash! Eric Trump." Democrat and Chronicle, 24 May 2006, p. 2. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/democrat-and-chronicle-flash-eric-trump/145548553/.

Hagan-Brown '18, Amy. "Choate Dad Runs for President." The Choate News, 8 Apr. 2016, https://thechoatenews.choate.edu/2016/04/08/choate-dad-runs-for-president/.

"Ivanka Headin' Back To New York." Philadelphia Daily News, 19 May 2004, p. 39. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/philadelphia-daily-news-ivanka-headin-b/145547724/.

"Locally Connected." The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 May 2000, p. 42. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-philadelphia-inquirer-locally-connec/145479490/.

"So Rich, yet Still so Clueless." Tampa Bay Times, 5 May 1996, p. 105. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/tampa-bay-times-so-rich-yet-still-so-cl/145602295/.

"The President's Son: How Eric Became a Trump." City & State NY, 29 Sept. 2017, https://www.cityandstateny.com/personality/2017/09/the-presidents-son-how-eric-became-a-trump/181794/.

"Tiffany Trump Wore Ivanka Trump Flats at Her College Graduation." Yahoo Life, 16 May 2016, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/tiffany-trump-wore-ivanka-trump-flats-to-her-173354396.html.

Trump, Ivana. Raising Trump. Simon and Schuster, 2017.

"Trump World's Fair Open." Press of Atlantic City, 15 May 1996, p. 29. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/press-of-atlantic-city-trump-worlds-fai/145602688/.

Updates

UPDATE [April 22, 2024]: This fact check was updated with information placing Trump at Donald Trump Jr.'s 1996 graduation.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.