Calif. Man Finally Receives High School Diploma 6 Decades After He Was Denied Due to Book Fee

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Ted Sams, 78, receives his original high school diploma during San Gabriel High School's graduation at the Rose Bowl on Friday, May 27, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif.
Ted Sams, 78, receives his original high school diploma during San Gabriel High School's graduation at the Rose Bowl on Friday, May 27, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif.

Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP

A 78-year-old California man has finally received his high school diploma 60 years after he was originally expected to graduate.

Ted Sams, of San Gabriel, received his diploma on May 27 alongside members of the class of 2022 from San Gabriel High School in a ceremony at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, according to The Pasadena Star-News.

Sams was a high school senior in 1962, but a string of speed bumps — including a $4.80 book fee — ultimately led him to leave school without a diploma in hand.

Speaking with the Star-News prior to the ceremony, Sams said he was both nervous and excited for his big day. Afterward, he called it one of the best days of his life.

"When you get your picture taken and people are cheering for you, what do you expect?" he told the outlet. "I didn't expect all of that, either, but what can I say?"

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In 1962, Sams' trouble began when he was suspended just five days before the end of the school year for, as he put it, "just screwing around." The ordeal forced him to miss an important final exam, which he made up over the summer.

Later on, Sams was faced with yet another roadblock — the book fee — on his quest to graduate high school. That was the final straw.

"When I went back with my grade," he told KABC-TV, "they wouldn't give me my diploma because I owed $4.80 for a book and so I just walked away and said forget it."

Ted Sams, 78, receives his original high school diploma during San Gabriel High School's graduation at the Rose Bowl on Friday, May 27, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif.
Ted Sams, 78, receives his original high school diploma during San Gabriel High School's graduation at the Rose Bowl on Friday, May 27, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif.

Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP

Since then, Sams has regretted not walking at his own high school graduation. It's a story he said he has shared with his children for quite some time.

"Over the years, I complained to my kids a number of times about how $4.80 kept me from having my diploma," he told KABC-TV.

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Sams' daughters Sherry and Sally and their husbands attended Friday's ceremony after contacting the school about their father's diploma a few months prior, per the Star-News.

"Just to see this fulfilled, I guess, was, yeah, got choked up a bit," Sally told the outlet. "Especially when I was filming it, everybody congratulating him, shaking his hand and then the whole crowd cheering for him was very special. It was fun."

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Sherry said everyone on stage hugged her father "when he walked and got his diploma." He then received a round of applause from the graduating class.

"Everyone, and I think most of the people in the stands, too, were cheering and applauding," she explained to the outlet.

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"They knew he was there from 1962 and they knew his story because the principal had talked about it," Sherry added, "so both myself and my sister got teary because kind of the whole stadium came to a standstill."

The Alhambra Unified School District celebrated Sams' achievement on Facebook in the days following the ceremony, calling him "an unofficial member" of SGHS class of 2022.

"Congratulations 🎉 to 78-year-old #TedSams," the district wrote in one post, later adding, "We enjoyed 💖 meeting you and your beautiful 🥰 family and are thrilled to have helped make your 60-year-old dream come true‼️"