A Diploma, at Last

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“It was quite a proud moment for me to step in his shoes and walk across the stage,” says Jack Griswold, who accepted a UW diploma on behalf of his grandfather Milton Griswold (above). courtesy of the griswold family

Along with thousands of others, Milton Griswold received a UW degree in May, but sadly, he couldn’t pick up his diploma in person. He died 62 years ago.

Griswold left school after his junior year to help train navy fighter pilots to fly biplanes in the skies over Europe during World War I. After the war ended, he figured that he’d receive a bachelor’s degree, knowing that the regents had decided to grant diplomas to students who had earned 90 credits before joining the war effort.

But Griswold was told he hadn’t earned a degree. Despite several appeals, he never became a UW graduate. It was a bitter disappointment for a man who married the sweetheart he met on Madison’s campus, raised a family, and worked as an engineer in the oil exploration industry in California before dying of a heart attack at 56.

His granddaughter Loralee Kendall reviewed his college records while working on her master’s thesis about her grandparents’ years at the UW. Sure enough, he’d earned enough credits. She contacted university officials, and they agreed to award a mechanical engineering degree posthumously.

“We knew as children that my grandfather was upset that he didn’t receive the diploma he earned — and was promised when the navy asked him to leave school before his senior year to teach pilots during World War I,” says Kendall, who lives in North Carolina. Although she couldn’t attend the College of Engineering graduation ceremony at the Kohl Center, her cousin Jack Griswold traveled to Madison from his California home to do the honors. Milton Griswold’s photo was projected as the audience learned of his improbable 97-year wait to graduate.

“There was quite a roar from the crowd. I high-fived several people on my way back to my seat,” says Jack Griswold. “It was quite a proud moment for me to step in his shoes and walk across the stage.”

Published in the Fall 2016 issue

Tags: Commencement, Engineering, Military

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