85-Year-Old Maywood Native, Korean War Vet Finally Gets His Diploma | Former Pirate’s Film To Make TV Debut

Gus NIU Grad

Robert “Gus” Trantham, 85, finally walked across the stage to receive his diploma, 63 years after completing his bachelor’s degree. Below: Trantham’s year book photo. | Courtesy Northern Illinois University  

Gus Northern year book photoFriday, May 20, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

In 1952, a young Robert “Gus” Trantham was poised to graduate from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s in education when he was abruptly called to serve on the USS Toucan during the Korean War.

“I know his parents came out here and saw the graduation, but he wasn’t in it,” said his wife Fran. “They knew nobody. That was a very tearful time.”

At the ceremony on May 30, 1953, Trantham’s parents picked up his diploma in their son’s stead — a bittersweet culmination of a lifelong ambition.

“I was a poor boy from Maywood, Illinois and I always wanted to go away to college,” said Trantham in a video published by Northern Illinois.

“I wanted to do it,” Trantham told the Daily Chronicle, referencing a bookend to that ambition — walking across that graduation stage. “I never really had a graduation.”

The veteran finally took the walk earlier this month in front of 25 family members, who traveled to DeKalb from Charleston, South Carolina, according to Chronicle. One daughter told the paper that she’d bene “saving money for a year to pay for airline tickets.”

“To have somebody come back and say, ‘I was not able to be here on an important day in my life …,’ is a tremendous compliment to Northern Illinois University,’ a university official told the paper.

But Gus, who would go on to become an entrepreneur, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m always a Huskie,” he said in the school’s video production. “Huskie born, Huskie bred!”

Watch the video in which Trantham talks about finally receiving his diploma here.

‘College Week,’ documentary film directed by Proviso East alum Derek Grace, to premiere on World Channel  

Grace filmmaker

Filmmaker Derek Grace, a Proviso East alum and Maywood native, discusses his documentary film “College Week,” during a screening last August. | Igor Studenkov/Wednesday Journal

Accomplished filmmaker and Proviso East High School alum Derek Grace’s documentary “College Week,” which captures a West Side school’s commitments to provide learning opportunities for its students, will make its debut premier on World Channel on Tuesday, June 7, at 8 p.m.

The film’s television debut is part of the fourth season of a new documentary series called America Reframed, hosted by Natasha Del Toro.

“For elite charter and public school in affluent Chicagoland communities, College Week is perceived as a customary practice, but in poor communities like Austin, schools more often serve as incubators for the ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’” according to a statement by World Channel and American Documentary, Inc., which co-produced the America Reframed documentary series.

“This film honors the values that my late father passed onto to me,” said Grace, a native of Maywood. “He firmly believed that education is the way out of poverty. In the lives of these children, the steadfast support and confidence from just one teacher may be the sustenance needed to carry them through in academia and life.”

For local listings, click here. VFP

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