HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — A 99-year-old veteran who fought in World War II can add an honorary degree to his list of accomplishments.

“It’s so fabulous and very unexpected,” said Bernard Bluestein, also known as ‘Bernie.’

The war veteran was part of the deception unit known as ‘The Ghost Army.’ Leaving college at 19 to join the Armed Forces, Bluestrin was a prime recruit for a special top-secret unit that would create battlefield illusions to trick the Nazis.

Bluestein was pursuing a degree in art before leaving for the service. Years later, his passion for the craft led him back to Harper College. The Palatine native has been a student of Harper College for 34 years, taking various courses mainly focused on art.

Bluestein’s son, Keith, a Harper College alum, shared his take on the honor.  

“Everything that he’s been through with WWII and then later finding out that he was a part of the Ghost Army and then being a lifelong student here at Harper College, it’s just amazing,” he said.   

During Friday’s 2023 commencement ceremony, Bluestein was awarded an honorary Associate in Arts degree as part of the school’s class of 2023 commencement. He was accompanied onto the stage by his art professor.   

Last summer, Bluestein and his fellow veterans in the Ghost Army were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.   

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“I’ve lived a nice life. I’ll be 100 years old in August,” he said. “My life has been great. It hasn’t all been happy and a lot of sadness in it too. But I’ve had such a great life. And this is a nice finale to my life.”