Fred Butler has done many things in his 106 years, from serving in two military theaters of World War II to helping raise five children. But he had never gone to high school, or earned a diploma — the result of leaving school after the eighth grade to work full-time in a print shop to help support his family.
As The Boston Globe's Bill Baker reports, Butler's relatives recently began to seek ways to help him get a diploma when they realized how much the lack still bothered him. Butler's first reaction to being told he was being awarded an honorary diploma? "I didn't earn it," he reportedly said.
Butler received his honorary degree in a special ceremony at the Beverly High School library. The town's mayor awarded the diploma to Butler, who is also Beverly's oldest citizen, according to Boston's WBZ News Radio. Butler had a long career working for the city's water department.
"I thank everybody who is responsible for this," a mortarboard-wearing Butler told the crowd of family and well-wishers after receiving his diploma. "I certainly appreciate it."
"He's a kind and gentle soul," Butler's niece, Helen, tells WBZ's Carl Stevens. "He took care of his siblings and helped his mom as a young man. He's always been there for everyone in the family."
The Globe reports that all of Butler's children graduated from Beverly High School; he's also been known to pay his grandchildren for getting A's on their report cards.