It’s been 57 years since Jim Dexter of Mattapoisett went to high school at Old Rochester Regional High School, but he never got his diploma. When his supervisor, Andrew Daniel, heard about Jim’s story, he decided to do something about it.

“Jim Dexter is a transcendent figure of Old Rochester,” Daniel said. “He is Mr. Old Rochester.” Daniel is the facilities manager for the Town of Rochester, and Dexter works a few hours a day for Rochester’s Council on Aging. “He’s a huge asset to me. He’s an extremely hard worker and such a blessing,” said Daniel.

Daniel recalled how Dexter began to open up to coworkers around graduation time about how he never received his official diploma 57 years ago.

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“You could tell it really bothered him and upset him,” recalled Daniel.

Dexter deals with dyslexia, so school was never easy for him. After 14 years, he finally finished, but they didn’t honor him with the honorary stamp of approval that most students receive. He returned to ORR a few years later, this time as a groundskeeper, and spent the next 46 years keeping the school in prime condition. Daniel described Dexter as one of the hardest-working people he knows and wanted to make things right by Mr. Old Rochester.

“I reached out to the superintendent, Mike Nelson, and told him how I really wanted to get this man his diploma,” Daniel said. "The state department of education had no problem with it and the school committee voted unanimously to get his diploma.”

On Thursday, the town celebrated Jim Dexter’s big moment.

Members of The Council on Aging, Daniel, ORR’s principal, the superintendent, and dozens of volunteers came together to host a banquet in Dexter’s honor and give him a graduation ceremony that he deserved.

Courtesy of Dana Dexter
Courtesy of Dana Dexter

“I was kind of shocked,” Dexter said. “I was surprised. I couldn’t take it in all at once.”

“It was like a wedding, we had a head table,” joked his wife, Dana.

In all seriousness, the love that Jim and his wife felt on Thursday was immeasurable. The smile on Dexter’s face as the diploma was placed in his hands said it all.

“With all the bad things that are happening lately, it was nice to have a good day with a good story,” Daniel said.

Jim Dexter received the first honorary diploma that has ever come through ORR, which is only fitting for the man known as Mr. Old Rochester.

Congratulations to Jim on being an official graduate. Caps off to you.

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