Elderly Man Celebrates Graduating At 69 Years Old

He’s overcome dyslexia and two strokes, so graduating from the University of Bristol is a very special moment for grandfather Richard Abraham.

Richard joined his University of Bristol course mates to graduate from a part-time BA English Literature and Community Engagement degree course with a 2.2 after six years of hard work.

“At school I understood what I was being taught but didn’t understand whyI was failing,” Richard explained. “When I was 13 I was put in remedial class and found it really frustrating. Back then no one really knew about dyslexia and there was certainly no support. Two of my children are dyslexic so I did wonder if I might be too. I thought I’d missed out but when I read an article in the local paper about a lady in her 60s who’d embarked on this degree with no formal qualification, I thought I’d find out more.

Richard Abraham Posing At Graduation

“I told the tutors about my concerns and they arranged a test which identified that I was in fact dyslexic. It felt like justification for what had happened and struggles in my life.”

The university provided extra support to help Richard with his dyslexia, including a laptop, some software, extra time for written exams and being allowed to do them on a computer. As part of the community engagement aspect of the degree, Richard started a bookgroup for mature students at the university. He also set up another book group, this time closer to home, which has proved a hit.

 He explained: “I’ve lived in my house now for nearly 30 years, and though I knew my neighbours’ names, that’s only because I used to get their post. I went knocking on doors in the roads surrounding mine with flyers and told them I was interested in setting up a book group. We ended up with about 12 people. That was four years ago and we’re still going. The book club has turned our little square into a little village. It’s worked really well.”

Richard Abraham with Tom Sperlinger, Course Director

Richard describes the overall experience of the degree as overwhelmingly positive, eventhough his wife thinks he has turned into a hermit, often locking himself away in their dining room, which he admits has been taken over by books. Richard, who plans to spend more time at his holiday home in Wales now he’s graduated, said: “The degree has given me some self-esteem. It’s made me feel better in myself. I think I’ve done it on behalf of my brothers and sisters as well, who all left school before 16. The last six years have changed the way I think about things. At 69, it’s given me another level of maturity. And, to be honest, I think being a student has kept me younger.”

Despite his learning disability, Richard had a successful career, which began with him working as a trainee for Bristol Siddely – an aero engine manufacturer which is now Rolls Royce. After moving up within the structure of the company, he then joined the armed forces, and later became a full-time Trade Union official – by which time computers and spell check were in place to help.

He added: “I’m quite satisfied with what I ended up doing in the end, my working life was quite interesting and I always did well at practical work. But if my dyslexia had been recognised whenI was 16 or 17, there are things that I could have achieved a lot quicker thanI did end up achieving them.”

Courtesy Of: OptimistWorld

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