Taft seeks to honor vets who left school early to fight in WWII, Korea or Vietnam


Taft High School is seeking to give honorary degrees to those veterans who left high school early to fight in World War II, Korean War or Vietnam War and never received their degree.

“I’d love to have one or even 20 walk the stage (during graduation),” Taft principal Mark Grishaber said. “The honorary degree also is available posthumously, so in those cases their family members could walk across the stage.”

Grishaber said that until recently he was unaware of the school’s system policy that allows for honorary degrees to be issued to veterans and thought that Taft was the ideal school to honor them given its U.S. Naval Junior ROTC Program. “I was just going through the policy manual and saw it,” he said.

The school also is looking into the possibility of having a memorial installed in front of the school that would honor those Taft students who served in the military and were killed in the line of duty, Grishaber said. About $25,000 in donations is needed for the project, and the annual Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade could conclude each year in front of the memorial, he said.

The policy, which stemmed from a nationwide effort called “Operation Recognition,” was enacted in 2002 and then amended in 2009 to add Vietnam veterans to the eligibility list. In more recent years, those joining the military have been required to have a high school degree or equivalent.

About 150 veterans reportedly received an honorary degree from the Chicago Public Schools during the first couple years of the program.

To be eligible, applicants must have resided in the city at the time they left high school, left school early for the purposes of serving in the military, never received a high school diploma and served during World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

Those interested in the program are asked to contact Grishaber at 773-534-1000 or contact him via e-mail at mgrishaber@cps.edu.