The Granny Graduate.


This story, no matter how many times you read it, is always refreshing and inspirational.  The true story of Jennie Oakley….dubbed the “Granny Graduate.”  Taken from the New Zealand Herald and written by Vaimoana Tapaleao. (5/9/2010)

71-year-old grandmother Jennie Oakley was the oldest graduate to walk down Queen St this week. Photo / Brett Phibbs

71-year-old grandmother Jennie Oakley was the oldest graduate to walk down Queen St this week.

She’s been dubbed the granny graduate, but University of Auckland graduate Jennie Oakley says she has more to achieve yet.  The 71-year-old grandmother of three was the oldest graduate to walk down Queen St this week, capped with a Masters in History.

Mrs Oakley already holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree after first enrolling as a university student as a 62-year-old.

She trained as a nurse after leaving school as an 18-year-old in 1956, before marrying her husband David when she was 20.  After “fluffing around” with the idea of going to university for years, she said finally deciding to do so was one of the best decisions she has ever made.

“It was one of those thoughts like: ‘Yes, one day I would like to go to university – and the cows might fly’.  “But then when I finally got here, I just adored it. I was wearing jeans and shirts just like all the other 18-year-olds. I was just Jennie to them, absolutely equal, and I loved it.”

 Mrs Oakley said there were “a few tears” throughout her years as a student, but armed with life skills that many of her counterparts did not have, was what made it slightly easier. “I had learned skills like time management and I didn’t have to worry about who was taking me to the party on Friday night,” she said, laughing.

Becoming a university student in the 21st century was also a whole other challenge for someone who was not exactly familiar with computers, she said. “The modern technology really frightened me because I thought it would blow up!”

“I went to night school to learn to type – I can touch type now! And I do email [and] I do text – although it still takes me a while.”

Friday saw the last of the week’s 11 graduation ceremonies, with a total of 6290 qualifications conferred by the University of Auckland this year. Mrs Oakley – who joked that she might look at doing a doctorate now
– is now looking to create her own greeting cards.

She said she would continue to enjoy university life as a library assistant at the Auckland University Information Commons and as treasurer of the university society. But her love for learning was something she hoped others would carry on with throughout the years.

“I just wish I could go on to do more [at university] but this has just been a dream come true. The cows did learn to fly – they flew.”


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