By Isabella Biedenharn
April 29, 2015 at 01:11 PM EDT
Mindy Small/FilmMagic

He may already have an honorary doctorate from California State University in Bakersfield, California, but 78-year-old country legend Merle Haggard finally received his high school diploma on Saturday.

Bakersfield High School, Haggard’s short-lived alma mater, held a special “graduation” ceremony in an alley outside his tour bus, to present him with the diploma. Though Haggard protested—”But I was only there nine days”—BHS Principal David Reese said, “Once a Driller, always a Driller,” placing emphasis on the “once,” the Bakersfeld Califorian reports

The backstory: It was one of Haggard’s classmates, Don Hemingway, whose tireless efforts finally earned Haggard his diploma. After his proposal to give Haggard the diploma at their 30th reunion was turned down, Hemingway went straight to the superintendent—more times than one, it seems. The official document of consent from the district was a crumpled pink note that reads: “Give Merle his darn diploma so this man can stop calling me.”

Hemingway told the Bakersfield Californian that he’s glad his buddy finally got his diploma, though: “It’s not like Merle needed this diploma to get a job or anything.”

For more, head to the Bakersfield Californian website.