The 106-year-old was awarded his honorary diploma Monday during an emotional ceremony attended by school officials, state lawmakers and Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon.
"I thank everybody who is responsible for this," he said, wearing a mortar board hat and tassel and holding the prized document in his hands. "I certainly appreciate it."
Butler dropped out of school before the ninth-grade to accept a full-time job at a print shop to support his mother and five younger siblings.
Daughter-in-law Cathy Butler says he regretted dropping out and always emphasized the importance of education to his children and grandchildren.
A grandson, Mike Calabro, said Butler gave him $5 for every A on his report card.
Cathy Butler launched the effort to get her father-in-law his diploma as a way to raise his spirits following the death of his wife, Ruth, last year.
Fred Butler's only concern was that he hadn't earned it.
Scanlon put that concern to rest. "It's a long time to wait for your diploma," Scanlon said, "but you've obviously earned it very well."