PASADENA — Fred Stroman firmly believes God answers prayer—even if it takes more than four and a half decades.
"I give all the glory to the Lord. He's the one in control," said Stroman, longtime bivocational minister from Lees Summit, Mo., and the latest graduate of the South Houston High School Class of 1965. He received his high school diploma during recent homecoming festivities at the Pasadena school.
Stroman enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the summer of 1964, intending to begin two years service after his high school graduation the following spring.
"I was so young, I had to have my mother sign for me," he recalled.
However, plans changed when he was called to the principal's office one day and told he would finish the school year a half-credit short of the minimum required for graduation. Since he already had been held back one year after the seventh grade, he considered himself too old to hang around high school another year.
So, he dropped out of school and immediately began his service in the Navy — initially in submarine school and later on aircraft carriers. His military service included deployment to Vietnam, and he also was called back to active duty in 1968 during the crisis triggered by North Korea's seizure of the USS Pueblo.
After his time in the Navy, he worked first as a draftman and later with the U.S. Postal Service until his retirement, while also seeking to answer God's call to ministry. He served as pastor of churches in Montana and Missouri, as well as interim pastor at several churches.
Stroman completed his high school equivalency exam decades ago. But as the years went by, he always regretted not walking across a platform with classmates to receive his diploma — particularly when his own children graduated.
When he read a news story about an 87-year-old woman who received her diploma 70 years after she left school, Stroman posted a comment on Facebook saying if he could do the same thing, it would be an answer to prayer.
A former classmate who works with the Pasadena Independent School District saw the posting and was able to help Stroman's dream come true. The Texas Education Code permits school districts to issue diplomas to honorably discharged veterans who dropped out of school to join the armed forced during times of military conflict.
So, at South Houston High School homecoming, the school not only recognized four distinguished alumni and paid tribute to a former student who died in military service. The principal also presented a diploma to the most recent graduate of the Class of 1965.
"I feel like that diploma made me equal to my other classmates," Stroman said. "The Lord has given me a message: 'Stick it out, no matter how hard it is. The Lord will answer your prayers.'"
Both a Houston-area paper and the Navy Times picked up Stroman's story, and he also hopes to have opportunities to share his experience in school assemblies—all occasions to give glory to God, he noted.
"God answered my prayers in his time and in his way," Stroman said. "That piece of paper — that diploma — is the most valuable witnessing tool I'll ever have. … If and when the Lord opens the door to another place of service in a church, I'll be able to put that cap and gown in a display case in my office. And when anybody asks, I can tell them, 'There's a story behind it.'"