CLEVELAND — 1956 started off as a pretty good year for then 23-year-old Richard Veres. He was a senior in the Fenn College of Engineering, which is now Cleveland State.
He had met a pretty girl named Donna who he would eventually marry.
And he was sure he had a job lined up with Reliance Electric, whose scholarship helped him go to college in the first place.
Thing were looking up; commencement was just weeks away. But the U.S. Army said not so fast.
“Uncle Sam decided that it was more important for me to be with him than with my commencement so when my graduating class was having commencement exercises I was on a train on the way down to my basic training camp in Fort Leonard Wood Missouri.”
So while his classmates were starting their careers Richard was going through basic training.
He did have a commencement of sorts — graduation day from basic training.
Although he really enjoyed his time in the Army, walking across that stage at Fenn College would have been his preferred commencement, because at the time it would have meant so much to his family.
“My extended family at the time I would have been the first college graduate in the extended family and it would have been have been something,” he told us.
Richard did get his diploma in the mail and had a very successful career as an engineer at Reliance Electric.
He and his wife raised three children, and it was one of those kids who got the ball rolling to give dad the ceremony he never had.
“She solicited the administration; my daughter, Melissa Mann, and wound up getting a positive response and they said, ‘we’d be happy to have your dad join us in the 2017 class commencement,'” he said.
So on Saturday, Richard will get the chance to walk across the stage with his daughters, son, grandchildren all watching him– now 84 years old– get his due.
A day he’s waited for, for 61 years.
“My beloved wife, Donna, who we were married for 61 years passed away last year; it would have been nice to have her as a part of this gathering but in spirit I think she’ll be with us,” he said.
So what’s his advice to his new set of classmates? Work hard and stick to your goals and don’t let anyone tell you can’t do what you set out to do.