Graduation is an important rite of passage for thousands of Montreal students, but this year the Ecole Polytechnique also hit a significant milestone.

Eva Terriault, a 23-year-old computer engineering graduate, has become the recipient of the school's 50,000 diploma.

"I'm really proud of what I did so I'm really proud of being part of this big group of people that did incredible things," she said.

Considering the diplomas are handed out in alphabetical order, there is some luck here – but the moment was made more special because Therriault's mother, Dominique Longtin, is also a graduate of the school.

Longtin earned her engineering degree in 1986.

"Very proud," said Longtin. "That's the only word."

Therriault now joins an alumni list that includes astronaut David St-Jacques, the former head of Hydro-Quebec Thierry Vandal, and even Justin Trudeau, who attended the school in the early 2000s (but never finished his degree).

It took 86 years before Ecole Polytechnique started admitting women, but now 28 per cent of the students are female. That made it especially touching for Longtin to see her daughter follow in her footsteps.

"I was happy. I knew it was the right place for her," she said. "Being the 50,000th student but also a woman, yeah it was a very good moment. It was incredible."

While it's an important occasion for both Terriault and the school, it's also the start of a new chapter, as students now face decisions about their future.

"I do have a job right now; I want to apply for my Master's. I also want to work abroad as an engineer," said Terriault.

It's also a moment to celebrate an accomplishment.

"It's like a new beginning, but a strong beginning," said Longtin.