It was a night more than 70 years in the making for one Edmonton family as 90-year-old grandfather Walter Ross finally received his high school diploma Thursday.

Ross was forced to drop out when he was 16 years old after his father had a heart attack. After his dad passed away and the family store was sold, Ross hired a tutor and took his Grade 12 supplementary exams. He failed his French exam and was denied his diploma.

However, he never stopped learning – raising a family, serving in the military and enjoying a lifelong career in insurance before deciding once and for all to get that diploma.

But last week, Ross received the happy news that he was invited to graduate with St.Francis Xavier High School’s Class of 2014 alongside his grandson.

Walter Ross

Walter Ross, 90, was all smiles as he formally graduated from high school Thursday night in Edmonton as several family members supported him at the special ceremony. (CBC)

Before the ceremony began, the 90-year-old – dressed in a dapper suit – was tearful when talking about the decades it took for him to arrive at this moment.

“I cry when I’m happy,” he said, wiping his eyes.

It was an emotional day for Ross and his 10 family members – sons, daughters and grandkids – who were on hand at the ceremony to support him.

Ross said he felt nervous, excited, “all those things and more." He couldn’t pick one thing he was most excited for.

“I think it’s all quite exciting,” he said. “Just the whole deal.”

'It's so cool he's doing this' 

Ross’s granddaughter, Madeline Graham, said he is an inspiration to her and her friends.

Madeline Graham

Walter Ross's granddaughter, Madeline Graham, said her grandfather is an inspiration. 'He’s such a strong man … a good man,' she said. (CBC)

“It’s amazing, honestly. I never thought I would graduate a year before my grandfather, but it’s so cool that’s he’s doing this,” she said. “He’s 90 and he’s still taking initiative to do something like this – he’s always wanted to.”

Asked to describe her grandfather, Graham choked up a bit.

“He’s just so sweet. He raised my mom, and my aunts and uncles by himself. He’s such a strong man … a good man.”

“It’s really something to strive towards,” she added, “being somebody like him.”

So what’s next for the 90-year-old?

Ross has been listening to French lessons on CD to perfect that pesky language that gave him a hard time when it came to his diploma. The program claims to have you fluent in 12 weeks.

“We’re going to give it a whirl,” said Ross.