WWII vet gets UNM degree 76 years later

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – John Hodges went to UNM so long ago to study for his master’s degree the campus was still surrounded by desert. Looking back on the life of former history teacher and student, John Hodges, is now a history lesson in itself.

John Hodges
John Hodges

John never got his degree; instead he went off to fight in World War II.

Now, at 99 years old, he has sent in that thesis and he is getting his degree.

Hodges finished all his classes at UNM, wrote his thesis on former Gov. Miguel Otero but never submitted it in 1938 before moving to find a good job.

His plan was quickly put on hold.

Instead of a job or pictures at graduation, Hodges had pictures at war.

He was drafted in 1941 and served in the Army Air Corps through the end of World War II.

“I had forgotten all about completing a thesis. There wasn’t a reason to,” Hodges said, his daughter disagrees.

She dug up his thesis, secretly submitted it and now, more than 75 years after leaving UNM, Hodges is finally getting his master’s degree in history this weekend—dated 1938.

“I was surprised when my daughter called me and told me, ‘You’re getting a degree,’” he said.

UNM said this will be an early birthday surprise before Hodges turns 100 years old in October, making the one-time teacher of history now the keeper of a piece of New Mexico history.

The university will present the degree at the History Department graduation on Saturday at 1 p.m. at KIVA Lecture Hall Room 104.

Hodges won’t make it from Amarillo, but his kids will accept his degree for him.

You can see more from the Amarillo Globe News video of Hodges here.

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