(CBS) — At 91 years old, Clifford Hanson attended a special graduation ceremony earlier this month — but it wasn’t for one of his grandkids, it was for himself. More than 70 years after dropping out of school, the grandfather from Minnesota received his high school diploma.
Hanson grew up on a farm in Benson, Minnesota, and CBS Minnesota reports he had to drop out of school after eighth grade because his father was ill. He was tasked with saving his family’s farm — and he succeeded.
Hanson did well, got married and had several kids and grandkids, but he still wished he could’ve received his diploma. He told his story to a nurse at the senior living facility where he now resides, and she was touched.
“He was really defined by that moment of having to drop out of school, so I got to work thinking how can I change that thinking and celebrate how much he accomplished,” Tamara Pierre of Lake Ridge Care Center told CBS Minnesota.
Pierre called the high school and it turns out they were happy to help. Benson High School decided to award Hanson an honorary degree.
A special graduation ceremony was held in Hanson’s honor. Family and friends gathered around Hanson, who wore a red cap and gown and a boutonniere. Pierre presented him with his diploma and then the family took photos and cut into a graduation cake.
Hanson’s family always knew he had it in him. “He’s a really smart man, really good values, he can do anything you put in front of him,” his son, Andrew Hanson, said.
“He’s an amazing guy and I think he worked really hard to earn this,” granddaughter Ellie said.
Hanson said he never thought he would reach this milestone. But there he was, 91 years old, tossing his graduation cap into a crowd.
First published on December 16, 2019 / 9:18 AM
© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.