You Are Never Too Old To Learn

cap_and_diploma 2.JPGReuters reports that a 94-year-old woman in Australia has become the oldest person to receive a master’s degree. The woman, Phyllis Turner, obtained a Medical Science Masters Degree from Australia’s Adelaide University for her research on “the anthropological history of Australia prior to European settlement.” She left school at age 12 and returned much later to obtain her undergraduate degree with honors in 2002 and then her masters. The quotes from her supervisor are worth repeating: “Mentally she was like any other student. You couldn’t tell her thinking, her enthusiasm and her interests apart from somebody who was 25. She has a lively mind,” he told Reuters. “She used to wake up at 5am in the morning and think about something, and then ring to say she wanted to check on it.”

My school has older students whom I love to teach, and I recall the so-called reentry students at Berkeley were great to talk to (they also had I believe the highest GPA as group which tended to annoy the straight from high school crowd). So no real comment other than it is great to see someone at any age jump into their education and achieve. In short, well done, Ms. Turner.

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4 Responses

  1. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    Having returned to the academic world (part-time mind you) in my 40s (and now 50) and just starting to write and publish in earnest, I think lifelong learning (certified or not) is absolutely essential and especially rewarding. My older students are often my best students and the younger ones benefit from their presence inside and outside the classroom.

  2. Deven says:

    Patrick, great to hear you are in the classroom. You have excellent comments, and I have wondered whether you had returned to academia. I am sure your students are happy to have you as a teacher.

  3. I also think Joan Erikson’s fascinating divergence with her husband is instructive here inasmuch as she questions the widely-held belief that generativity is greatly diminished in the later stages of the life cycle. I have often wondered myself why it is necessarily the case that one’s ability to think critically and innovatively is less at age 80 than at age 40.

    This strikes me as a stereotype about aging so pervasive as to be widely uncontroverted. To be sure, some elderly persons may have diminished mental capacity, dementia, or related conditions, but as gerontologists perpetually remind us, aging in and of itself is most assuredly not a disease. The ramifications of this conceptual distinction are, I submit, quite important.

  4. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    My best friend, Nandini Iyer, is well into her 70s, although now retired from teaching (UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College). She is a rather remarkable woman, much sharper and quicker on her feet than most folks half her age. She recently contributed to a Festschrift for one on my former teachers:

    She’s the mother of Pico Iyer, the travel writer, novelist….