Thursday, December 30, 2010

Better Late Than Never...!

I love these stories of older folks finally getting something long overdue!

That's especially true in a case like this, where the reason for the overdue original reward was certainly understandable.

Guess it's true that all good things come to those that wait!

Saluting a 94-year-old Grad

In June of 1941, Lyle Francis Robert Knudson, a University of Wisconsin senior from Racine, was called to active duty in the U.S. Navy. He was told to report to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois on June 13, the same day on which his last two final exams were scheduled.

Knudson sent a telegram to the Navy indicating that it would be impossible for him to get there because he had to take his finals that day.

The Navy responded with one word: “Imperative.”

So Knudson left the university early and never got the chance to pass those two final exams and receive his commerce degree. There was no business school at the university in 1941, but commerce degrees were offered through the College of Letters and Science.

Sixty-nine years later, the degree is finally in Knudson’s hands, thanks to a very determined friend and fellow Badger alumnus and the Wisconsin School of Business, which recently granted Knudson a bachelor’s degree in business administration with majors in finance, investment and banking. The registrar’s office sent the diploma to him about a month ago.

“Mr. Knudson received a Wisconsin BBA degree because he had earned it, and we are proud to have him as an alumnus,” says Ken Kavajecz, associate dean of full-time MBA and undergraduate programs at the Wisconsin School of Business.

At 94, Knudson is believed to be the UW-Madison’s eldest degree recipient.

Joseph Battenburg, who received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1967, met Knudson when he and his wife moved to the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington.

“I met Lyle several years ago, and all he could talk about was his time at the UW and his war experiences,” says Battenburg. “I learned that he had just missed receiving his degree by a gnat’s eyelash.”

Battenburg took it upon himself to get the World War II veteran his degree, and he doggedly worked to achieve that goal, calling everyone he could think of who could make it happen.

“Being a Wisconsin grad myself, I felt that something should be done to assist him,” says Battenburg. “Many universities have given students credit or degrees for life experiences, or because they have had their studies interrupted or at one time were refused admission to universities.”

On Nov. 2, Battenburg and some of Knudson’s other friends and neighbors gathered at the Shanghai Restaurant in Port Townsend, Wash., to honor Knudson and celebrate the long-overdue receipt of his degree.

“I am so happy for Lyle — a person who years ago gave so much for our nation,” says Battenburg. “He is on cloud nine. He wears his Wisconsin cap and has a Wisconsin alumni license plate frame on his car, and he finally has his diploma.”

“It was an honor for me to receive my BBA degree from the UW after all these years,” says Knudson. “I have many fond memories of my time in Madison, where I met my future wife while we were both students. I still am an avid Badger fan and don’t miss a game, even at 94 years of age.”

When Knudson joined the Navy, he had no prior flying experience. He wanted to fly amphibious patrol planes, but that didn’t happen. He was in flight training in Texas when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Knudson was assigned to the Navy’s first squadron of four-engine heavy bombers and eventually flew B-24 bombers at night out of Guadalcanal.

Knudson was honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross “for heroism and extraordinary achievement in several flights as co-pilot of a heavy bomber plane in the Solomon Islands, January through September, 1943.

When Knudson came home from the war he went into the construction business, building homes in the Milwaukee area. Then he went into the roofing business in Cleveland. After later moving to Oregon, Knudson started an industrial machinery manufacturing and sales business with headquarters in Kent, Wash., in 1962.

He ended up in Port Townsend on the extreme northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, where he still resides.

Knudson and his wife, Ruth Merkle of Appleton, bought land on Marrowstone Island. They became master gardeners, specializing in rhododendrons and fruit trees. Ruth died in 1991.

Knudson later applied his knowledge of fruit trees to teach courses on apples at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Agriculture. He continues to love learning and reads several books a week.

In an interview with The Port Townsend Leader, Knudson shared two pieces of advice: “Always try to be honest. Always try.” And he offered this wording from a sign he has held onto since his college days at Wisconsin: “Persistence will triumph.”

Makes you very happy for the old gentleman and his friends! I'm very proud to know that these folks worked hard to make sure Mr. Knudson finally got what he so richly deserved!

Let's get some coffee and sit in the kitchen. We'll toast to justice delayed, but still served!


Catman said...

Congratulations, Mr. Knudson!

HermitJim said...

Hey Catman...
Ain't that the truth?

Thanks for the visit, buddy!

Anonymous said...

Nice things happen eventually.

I have been off the air, pc died, I have to catch up on past posts...


Sixbears said...

Now that he has that degree he can finally make something of himself. (ha ha) He certainly had a full life without it. Glad he got what's so long overdue.

Nice so see he had someone pushing for him.

Good story.

Momlady said...

Thank you for the GOOD news, Jim. Wish there was more of it.

JoJo said...

Good Morning My Special Friend,
Thank you for a wonderful story. I am happy this man helped make Mr. Knudson's dream come true. See there are some wonderful folks out there stil.
Pass the pot please it is very cold here and it has been raining buckets on and off since last night, strong winds blowing too. I guess its a good day to start packing up the Christmas stuff around the inside of the house.

MamaHen said...

That's a wonderful story and what a great role model both men are!

Dizzy-Dick said...

I am glad he finally received his degree, although he sure didn't need it. A lot of successful people didn't even have a college education, just graduated from the "School of Hard Knocks".

HermitJim said...

Hey AV...
Sorry to hear about the PC dying...seems that has been happening a lot as of late!

It is good to see you again and I thank you for coming by today!

Hey Sixbears...
After all these years, it probably is just symbolic, although I'm sure the old man appreciates it!

Nice to see a positive outcome for a change!

Thanks, man, for coming by today!

Hey Momlady...
Nice to have a taste of the good news for a change, isn't it?

Now days, we just don't get enough of it!

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey JoJo...
Finally stopped raining here and it has warmed up quite a bit! That's OK by me!

Looking forward to the continued good weather for a while myself.

Thanks, sweetie, for coming by today!

Hey Anne...
I sure am glad he has friends that knew what was important to the old guy! Good friends for sure!

Should be a lesson for us all!

Thanks, my friend, for coming by today!

Hey Dizzy...
That's a case of someone making the best of what he had, which in this case turned out to be a lot!

School of hard knocks is best sometimes!

Thanks for coming by today!

Marjie said...

It was nice that someone recognized his efforts.

Cygnus MacLlyr said...