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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014

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James Abraham at ball

James Abraham at 2010 Army ROTC Military Ball

Photographer: Sean Work

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Alumnus to walk in commencement after 67-year wait

World War II forced Athens native to miss 1944 ceremony


On a weekend when Ohio University's Class of 1970 is getting most of the attention, retired Brigadier General James M. Abraham will receive his diploma on Saturday morning – 67 years after he earned it.

Abraham, an 87-year-old Athens, Ohio, native currently living in Gahanna, Ohio, completed the requirements for his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in the summer of 1943. He was scheduled to participate in the 1944 commencement ceremony but was preoccupied with World War II.

Around the time of the university's commencement, Abraham was storming Omaha Beach in Normandy as a member of the United States Army.

"I was a corporal in the Army at that time and hadn't gotten my commission yet," Abraham said. "I received my battlefield commission from General (George) Patton in 1945."

Abraham eventually returned to Ohio University after World War II to earn a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering in 1948 and participated in the commencement ceremony that year, but still hadn't walked for his first degree.

Abraham credits Dan Stroh, assistant dean for development in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, with providing him with the idea to walk this year. Abraham said he received further encouragement to walk from President Roderick J. McDavis and his
wife, Deborah.

Stroh said that during a conversation several years ago, Abraham was telling him the story of why he missed the 1944 commencement ceremony and he gave him an open invitation to participate in an upcoming commencement ceremony.

"I told him that he could walk whenever he wanted and that the college would set everything up for him," Stroh said. "Several months ago, he told us he was going to walk in this year's ceremony."

Stroh said Abraham has endowed more than 10 student scholarships across many areas of the university, including English, cheerleading, ROTC and engineering.

"It is an honor to be associated with someone with such an amazing career in the military and at Ohio University," Stroh said. "His time of service is something to aspire to."

When Abraham walks on Saturday with the college-aged undergraduates, he won't be the only longtime alumnus. He will be accompanied by 1970 Russ College alumni Jim Edwards and John Baginski.

Edwards, who lives in Columbus, sits on the college's Board of Visitors with Abraham. Baginski, who resides in Cincinnati, is a friend of Edwards who is an advisory board member for the Russ College's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Stroh said that when Edwards found out that Abraham was walking this year, he was wanted to join him during the morning ceremony instead of walking with the Class of 1970 in the afternoon.

With the wait almost over, Abraham said he is looking forward to Saturday.

"I'm excited about doing this because of my age and because of the fact that I get to do it with the young kids," Abraham said. "It'll also be exciting for my family to see me doing this, especially my wife Irene and son Daniel."

For more information about James Abraham, click here.