80 years after missing commencement, 101-year-old WWII veteran dons cap and gown

Duty called before Fred Taylor could walk for graduation — class of ‘43

In 1943, Fred Taylor was all set to receive his college degree when history intervened.

Now, 80 years later, the 101-year-old veteran – who skipped commencement to sign up with the Army Air Corps in the wake of Pearl Harbor — finally got to cross the stage at his alma mater, Cornell College.

His daughter, Linda Taylor, who happens to be a college professor, worked behind the scenes to make the big moment happen.

“Linda mentioned this idea a long time ago,” Taylor said, according to a Cornell College news post. “But it was a big surprise to me that she had gone ahead and made the arrangements to do it. So, of course, I’m surprised and excited about it.”

Taylor finished his degree in music at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, in 1943 and was set to receive his diploma when the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor was attacked.

“Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, I and a number of my friends at Cornell joined the Army Air Corps Reserve because we’d rather be in the Air Corps than a foot soldier. The Army Reserves, then, were activated in February of my senior year. On Feb. 19, 1943, we had to leave and went to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri for basic training,” Taylor explained.

Taylor didn’t just get an education at Cornell College; he also met Peggy Newberg there during his senior year. After the war, the pair wed, and they’ve now been married for more than 75 years. Taylor credits the college for making him the man he is today.

“Cornell shaped the rest of my life, actually,” Taylor explained. “For my work and occupation, and then meeting Peggy there. I married her, and of course, that shaped the rest of my life. The college was extremely important to me.”

After returning to civilian life, Taylor earned a masters degree and became a music teacher, first in Iowa and later in California, where he currently resides. And while not attending graduation all those years ago certainly didn’t keep Taylor from living a happy, full life, he admits it felt good to properly finish something left undone for so long.

“Well, it really ties the ribbon on. It makes me feel like now it’s complete.”