HANCOCK - In September 1943, Donald Dodge was sworn into the U.S. Army in Marquette, soon to be shipped overseas for the final chapters 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 1944.
On Monday, Dodge, who turns 89 today, finally got his diploma, when Hancock Public Schools Superintendent Monica Healy handed it over in a short ceremony in the district's board room.
Eighty-eight year-old Hancock High School graduate Donald Dodge looks over his diploma shortly after it was awarded by Hancock Superintendent Monica Healy, left, on Monday. Dodge was serving in World War II when his own high school class of 1944 graduated. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Dan Roblee)
"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.