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WWII vet finally walks at graduation
Published May 21, 2023; 10:11 p.m.

101-year-old experiences Commencement 80 years after
missing his to serve in WWII

wwii vet graduates
Fred Taylor, age 101, walks the stage at Cornell College's Commencement 80 years after earning his degree and leads the Class of 2023 in the turning of their tassels. Credit: Megan Amr, Cornell College Marketing Media Specialist

Newswise — MOUNT VERNON, Iowa – Fred Taylor, Cornell College class of 1943, left campus in February of his senior year to enlist in the Army Air Corps Reserve for World War II. Although he completed his degree, he missed his graduation ceremony.

Eighty years and eight Cornell College presidents later, Taylor led the Class of 2023 in turning their tassels at Commencement, receiving his diploma at age 101, on May 14, 2023.

“I was amazed the Class of ’23 took right to it, and applauded,” Taylor said by phone the day he returned home to California. “It really makes up for what I missed. It feels like I’ve completed my experience at Cornell College.”

Taylor arrived early and received a pre-Commencement campus tour and met with President Jonathan Brand. He called it the “royal purple treatment.”

Being on campus brought a flood of memories, he said, “especially at Bowman Hall where Peggy and I met, of course. And Armstrong, where I had classes and acted in the little theatre.”

After Taylor left campus in 1943 he flew fighter planes, despite his mother’s wishes that he join the military band. The Springville, Iowa, native was married to Peggy Elaine Newberg ’46 for 75½ years and taught band in Bayard, Iowa, and in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District near San Diego.

Their daughter, Linda Taylor, wrote President Brand to ask if her father could attend Commencement. She told him she wanted her father to finally have the special experience of graduation day, “with all the joy that it entails.” She surprised her 101-year-old father with airplane tickets and arrangements.

“Better late than never, I think!” Linda said.

Fred Taylor, who never expected to experience his college graduation, was mentioned frequently during the ceremony and was a focus of the President’s charge to the graduates.

The smile on his face was infectious as he finally experienced his Commencement ceremony–80 years in the making.

Taylor’s joy became everyone’s joy on graduation day.

Cornell College is a liberal arts college of approximately 1,000 students in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Cornellians have been living, learning, and teaching on the block plan, One Course At A Time, since 1978. Each 18-day course can take students and professors off-campus and even out of the country due to the block’s flexibility, and students fully immerse themselves in their topic of study, taking field trips, diving into research, creating an art exhibit, or exploring issues in the local community. With students from 47 states and 19 foreign countries, as well as renowned faculty, speakers, and entertainers, Cornell offers the world from its campus.


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