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WWII veteran receives diploma on 90th birthday

Published on -12/15/2013, 2:58 PM

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- A World War II veteran from southwest Kansas got a 90th birthday surprise when he received a degree he didn't know he had earned.

Warren Spikes of Hugoton was half a semester away from earning his bachelor's degree at the University of Kansas when he was drafted, the Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/18LYZko ) reports. He didn't return to school after the war and thought he hadn't finished the degree.

But his family did some digging and discovered he had the right credits all along. It turned out that after basic training, Spikes was sent to Rutgers University where he spent two semesters racking up about 30 credits in civil engineering. Spikes then shipped out to the South Pacific and remained in Japan for a year after the war ended. Back in Kansas, his father had accumulated some land and was of the opinion that returning soldiers needed to be working, so Spikes started farming.

"I thought it was time to go to work," Spikes said. "I guess I thought I'd had enough school for a while ... as the years went by, I thought less and less about going back."

It wasn't until this fall that Spikes' son, Kirk Spikes, learned about the almost-finished degree while working on a biography to share at his father's upcoming birthday party.

Kirk Spikes called Rutgers and then the University of Kansas registrar's office and School of Engineering, which pulled Warren Spikes' records from the archives and started putting credits from the two schools together. Ultimately, the University of Kansas determined Spikes was eligible for a degree based on the school's curriculum in 1945. The university mailed the diploma with a few days to spare before Spikes' milestone birthday celebration.

Spikes initially thought it was a joke when he was handed the diploma during his party. As he realized it wasn't, Spikes said he was honored and "certainly glad to have it."

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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