HANCOCK (AP) — In September 1943, Donald Dodge was sworn into the Army in Marquette, soon to be shipped overseas for the tail end of World War II. One week later, his classmates began their senior year at Hancock Central High School. While he was helping to win the war, they became the Class of ‘44.
On June 2, Dodge, who turned 89 two days later, finally got his diploma, when Hancock Public Schools Superintendent Monica Healy handed it over in a short ceremony in the district’s board room, according to The Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton ( http://bit.ly/1mTkvbj ).
“I can conclusively say I’m the only student who took 70 years to get out of the 12th grade,” Dodge said during the ceremony. “I hope it’s not a comment on my intelligence.”
Healy said the graduation came about through the efforts of Paul Ollila, a friend of Dodge’s and a former Copper Country Intermediate School District superintendent, who’d called her to see if something could be arranged. She said there’s actually a law that can require districts to recognize military training in lieu of school credits, but making sure he graduated was more about honoring his service.
“I just think that someone who didn’t graduate for the reasons he didn’t deserves a graduation,” she said.
Healy said she offered Dodge the chance to graduate with the rest of the class of 2014 on May 24, “but he didn’t want to take away from their day.”
Instead, his was a small ceremony, with Hancock’s ROTC officers, a few administrators and staff, and the Ollilas.
Paul Ollila downplayed his role in the graduation.
“We were talking about the Army, and I asked if he’d finished up at Hancock,” Ollila said. Dodge said he wasn’t worried about a diploma, but Ollila “thought he wanted it.”