CHICAGO (CBS) — An 85-year-old Korean War veteran is reliving his college years this week at Northern Illinois University, and will experience something very special on Saturday.

Gus Trantham officially graduated from NIU in 1953, but was unable to collect his diploma, because he was behind enemy lines in Korea.

The retired Navy officer will walk across the stage at NIU’s commencement ceremony Saturday in DeKalb, to personally collect his diploma 63 years later.

(Source: Facebook)

(Source: Facebook)


Trantham said he finished his college courses a semester early at what was then Northern Illinois State Teachers College, and then went off to the Navy for training.

By the time of his class graduation ceremony, he was already deployed to Korea, so his parents picked up his diploma for him.

“They gave them the diploma in the office, and then put them back on the train. It was a wonderful thing that they did for them. It was very emotional,” Trantham said.

Trantham lost most of his hearing while working on a Navy minesweeper, and later owned a couple car washes.

Still, he regretted not crossing the stage himself to collect his diploma, and wanted the experience of wearing a cap and gown on graduation day. Now retired and living in Charleston, South Carolina, he’s returned to DeKalb to join the class of 2016 for commencement on Saturday.

“It is very emotional. Every day I’m here since Monday, my dog and I walk at least two hours around the campus,” he said.

His daughter, Valerie, said the family is very proud of him.

“We hope he enjoys walking down the aisle, and he’s walking down the aisle with his grandson, who is a Marine,” she said.