Minneapolis, January 11, 2022 – Due to being drafted to serve in World War II, former Auburn High School student, Donald Huisenga was unable to join the Class of 1943 in getting his diploma. Once Kevin Litterer, principal of what is now known as East Sac County High School in Lake View, Iowa, heard about Huisenga’s regret of never receiving this important document, he took action.
"I was in my office when my administrative assistant answered the phone ... She jumped up and said, 'Kevin, you need to take this phone call right now,'" Litterer said.
Litterer worked with Jostens to create a replica of the diploma, complete with Auburn High School’s logos and dated May of 1943. He then drove from Iowa to Texas in order to hand deliver it to Huisenga at the Veteran Affairs Hospital in San Angelo.
Huisenga served in the U.S. Army from 1943-45, where he survived the battles at Normandy and a six-month stint as a prisoner of war. When he returned to the United States, he got married, started a family and even went on to have several grandchildren. But, the regret of never graduating high school remained.
After nearly 80 years, Huisenga was officially recognized as a high school graduate on Wednesday, Jan. 5, during a special ceremony at the Veteran Affairs Hospital.
“It’s about Iowa nice, about people rallying together to show support and appreciation for a veteran of 98 years old who completed his service in World War II and earned his diploma, yes in the hallways of Auburn, but also in the battlefields of Europe,” said Litterer.
Surrounded by friends and family, Huisenga was overcome with emotion. He reflected on his old high school friends and continuously expressed his gratitude for the special recognition.
"I made it," Huisenga said, adding later that, "I always hoped that I would get a diploma, I am pleased as punch. I'm so pleased, I couldn't be any more pleased."