U.S. Navy veteran gets honorary degree after 75 years

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GUNNISON, Colo. -- Bill Hardin graduated high school in 1941.  He attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins while he pursued a degree in agriculture.

"I was planning on graduating and going to be a county agent," he said.

Unfortunately, destiny had other plans. Hardin left CSU, and a full-ride scholarship, to join the U.S. Navy in 1942.

"I went in as a welder," he said.

He joined the newly formed U.S. Navy Construction Battalion known as the Seabeas and served in the South Pacific.

"You did whatever they needed," Hardin said.

After the war, Hardin hit the ground running. He worked his family's farm and raised a family.  There was no more time for college.

Nephew Robert Ramsour wanted to change that. He wanted his uncle to get an honorary degree from Colorado State.

Ramsour tried unsuccessfully for two years as CSU ignored his requests.

He contacted the FOX31 Problem Solvers and put him in touch with a gentleman who might be able to help.

That man is retired Gen. Joe Arbuckle of the U.S. Army.

"Selfless service and sacrifice. That's exactly what Bill Hardin did," Arbuckle said.

Arbuckle was on board, but CSU was not.

But the story was different at Arbuckle's alma mater. Western State Colorado University stepped up and presented Hardin, on his 96th birthday, with an honorary bachelor of arts degree.

With senators, generals, family and friends, it was one heck of a birthday for Hardin.