Main Line Chamber of Commerce

06/10/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/10/2024 12:20

Vietnam Veteran Robert Toporek to receive Honorary High School Diploma

Tuesday, June 11, 2024 -- Robert Toporek, a high school dropout from Charleston, S.C., now living in the Philadelphia region and decorated Vietnam Veteran (Bronze Star w V for Valor, Purple Heart, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry), will be receiving an honorary High School Diploma from Commonwealth Charter Academy at their Philadelphia graduation.

In November 1965, for the first time in combat history, everyone in Robert's company who had not finished high school was given their GED test. Robert passed the test, and for over 50 years, he thought he had a GED. But the paperwork said this is different from your GED. You must get your certificate from your State Dept. of Education.

On October 27, 2023, Toporek met Joseph Page from Commonwealth Charter Academy at a PA National Guard meeting. Joseph helped Robert get the ball rolling on contacting the SC Department of Education to secure his GED Certificate. The PA National Guard donated a table to Toporek's nonprofit organization,, to help him promote his Tech for Vets program, where they provide veterans refurbished laptops for $100.

On December 14, 2023, with help from two incredible Women in the SC Dept. of Education, he received his GED certificate 59 years later.

In December 1965, Robert quit high school and joined the Army, wanting to be in the Special Forces. His recruiter said, "No problem. "However, he forgot to tell Robert that he would need a high school diploma to learn how to jump out of airplanes. Problem ! Robert had never been in an airplane. He parachuted in his first five airplane rides and became an infantry Paratrooper. By May 1965, he joined the Weapons Squad, Company B, 2nd Battalion 503 Infantry, and 173rd Airborne Brigade Separate in Vietnam.

During the first tour of duty, over half of his squad were either killed or wounded. On March 16, five days after his 19th birthday, his unit was locked into one of the more intense battles. He got a piece of shrapnel in his back and received a Purple Herat. He was also awarded the Bronze Star with V for Valor for his heroic actions that day.

Robert met Joseph Page from Commonwealth Charter Academy at a PA National Guard meeting, and Joseph helped Robert get the ball rolling.

Robert has yet to learn who else from his company took and passed the test, returned home alive, went to college, and had a great life.

Robert, too, has had an incredible life without a high school diploma. After Vietnam, he worked for two years in anti-poverty programs in his hometown of Charleston, S.C., teaching adult students reading, math and job skills.

He was awarded a one-year fully funded Leadership Development fellowship from the Foundation. He spent that year traveling the country, exploring the relationship between public Education and personal growth. He also trained at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, leading Gestalt and encounter Workshops. At Esalen, he met his life mentor, Dr. Ida P. Rolf the founder of the Rolf method of structural integration.

Since 1975, after studying directly with Dr. Rolf, he has been pioneering the benefits of Rolfing for babies, children, and families. He has also helped over 5,000 men and women improve their posture and transform their well-being.

Robert has also spearheaded a nonprofit program that has distributed over 25,000 low-cost, quality refurbished computers to families, schools, organizations, veterans, and anyone in need.

He has also published a book, and an eBook