BOSTON - Lu Lingzi, the brilliant Boston University graduate student killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, was recognized with a posthumous, honorary degree Sunday during the school's commencement ceremony.

Many of the roughly 20,000 students, teachers and supporters attending Boston University's commencement at Nickerson Field teared up as Lingzi's photograph was projected before the crowd.

"She was always the smartest woman in the room, and we miss her dearly," said her friend and classmate Patricia Dula.

"This isn't just a graduation; it's a way to honor our friend and remember she was among the best of us."

Lingzi, 23, studied statistics and mathematics at the college and was due to receive her graduate degree next year.

A second BU student with Lingzi during the blast was injured and survived, while a third student with them was not hurt, authorities have said.

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Lingzi, who came to the United States from her native China to study, immediately endeared herself to classmates, several of them said.

"She played beautiful piano and loved animals, because she had peace and music in her heart," friend Michele Hua said.

"She was so pretty and kind."

Classmates said the day would have been a special one for Lingzi.

"She would have loved it because it's spring, it's a celebration and everyone is excited about the future," Dula said. "She deserved to experience this herself one day."