At 90, graduate shows it is never too late for education

15 December 2015

I decided to be a student too. I would write a better second edition if I had the discipline of a university education.

More than 30 years after one of her four sons graduated from ANU, 90-year-old Jacqueline Dwyer has followed in his footsteps and graduated from ANU with a Master of Philosophy from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.

She said the highlight of her time at ANU was the mental stimulation that comes with university study.

"You need it in old age, otherwise you just shrink," Jacqueline said.

Jacqueline, who published a book in 1998 about her family's migration from France during Australia's wool boom of the 19th century, came to ANU by chance after a PhD student took an interest in her work.

"A student whom I didn't know, who was working towards an ANU PhD, wrote to me and said your book covers a period that interests me very much," she said.

A meeting was arranged and as a result Jacqueline, already considering a second edition of her book, decided that both she and her book would benefit from some further study.

"We talked and talked and talked. As a result of that I decided to be a student too. I would write a better second edition if I had the discipline of a university education," she said.

The wife of one of Australia's pioneering anaesthetists, Brian Dwyer, Jacqueline said she might have first studied in the 1940's if it were not for the Second World War.

"I've always retained an interest in English and history but I didn't continue with that because it was war time and you had to do something that was useful for the war effort," she said.

"I became a social worker, reluctantly. I did that for a few years but found I was not mature enough for the work."

With the support of her family, Jacqueline will now turn her attentions to writing the second edition of her book and furthering her passion for French-Australian relations.

Jacqueline's book is titled Flanders in Australia: a Personal History of Wool and War.