Ted Sams was a high school senior in 1962 when a series of speed bumps—including an unpaid $4.80 book fee—led to him leaving school without a diploma.
A California man finally received his high school diploma 60 years after he was originally set to graduate. Ted Sams, a 78-year-old from San Gabriel, can finally call himself a graduate after donning a cap and gown and receiving his diploma on May 27 alongside members of the San Gabriel High School class of 2022. According to The Pasadena Star-News, Sams was a high school senior in 1962 when a series of speed bumps—including an unpaid $4.80 book fee—led to him leaving school without a diploma. Speaking to reporters moments before his long-overdue graduation, Sams said he was both nervous and excited for his big day.
"When you get your picture taken and people are cheering for you, what do you expect?" he said. "I didn't expect all of that, either, but what can I say?" Back in 1962, Sams' trouble began when he got in trouble and was suspended just five days before the end of the school year, for "just screwing around," he recalled. He missed a crucial final exam because of the suspension and had to make up for it over the summer. "When I went back with my grade," Sams 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."
Ever since—for six decades—Sams has regretted not walking at his own high school graduation. Over the years, he often shared his remorse with his children. "I complained to my kids a number of times about how $4.80 kept me from having my diploma," he shared. Sams' daughters Sherry and Sally finally decided to give their father another shot at graduating and contacted the school about Sams' diploma. Luckily, the school still had his original diploma locked away in an old filing cabinet.
Sherry and Sally, along with their husbands, bore witness as their beaming father walked across the graduation stage at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and received the diploma last month. "Just to see this fulfilled, I guess, was, yeah, got choked up a bit," said Sally. "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." Sherry revealed that everyone on stage hugged her father "when he walked and got his diploma." He also 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," Sherry shared. "They knew he was there from 1962 and they knew his story because the principal had talked about it, 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 in a Facebook post late last month, writing: "Congratulations to 78-year-old Ted Sams. Ted is officially a member of the #SanGabrielHighSchool #ClassOf1962 and an unofficial member of the #SGHS #ClassOf2022. We enjoyed meeting you and your beautiful family and are thrilled to have helped make your 60-year-old dream come true." Sams, who is now officially a high school graduate, said he plans on hanging his diploma on his wall at home.