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After 80 years of waiting, this great-grandmother finally received her university degree certificate on her 101st birthday


University certificates are often prized by many as a symbol of years of struggle towards academic achievement. Those with a university degree are mostly respected, and acknowledged as they are expected to held a relatively higher knowledge compared to those who doesn’t attained any. The certificate is proof that you are knowledgeable in a particular field and thus, qualified to perform tasks related to that filed.  

In 1938, Catherine Palmer from Southport, England graduated with a first class honors from Victoria University of Manchester. She attended her graduation ceremony but did not attained her certificate. The reasons were undisclosed.

Now, 80 years later, she finally received her degree certificate in English

Credit: University of Manchester

After the graduation ceremony, Catherine moved to Glasgow and went on wartime placements at St Thomas’s and St Mary’s hospitals in London during World War II.

After the end of the war, she began teaching English at NW Polytechnic in London, now the University of North London, and then in grammar schools. Her students came from all around the world. On occasion, she even invited them to live with her in her family home while studying. During that time, this was often frowned upon by her neighbors.

Catherine have taught many accomplished students. She even praised the achievements of one of her students who lived with her. He went on to be the president of the University of Bristol before becoming a government minister in St Lucia.

On her mother’s 101st birthday, Chaterine’s daughter, Alison arranged a surprise gift for her.

She contacted the University of Manchester and presented her with her certificate

Credit: University of Manchester

“We had a great birthday with Mum and she was delighted to finally get her certificate, which has now taken pride of place next to her card from the Queen. I had so often heard her talk about her days at university as special and very happy times, and then she’d mention the lack of evidence of her achievements there. It felt important to try to give her the acknowledgement of those days, and contacting staff at Manchester has enabled a sense of completion and celebration to finally happen,” said Alison.

Catherine was a very active student during her time at the university.

She sang in the choir, represented the university at fencing and athletics, and also enjoyed climbing in the Lake District – an activity which she continued to enjoy later in life

Credit: University of Manchester

Professor Peter Knight, the university’s current head of English, American studies and creative writing, said: “I am delighted that Catherine has finally received her degree certificate. In this centenary year for women’s suffrage, it is important to celebrate the achievements of our alumni and Catherine’s life and work are an inspiration to our current students”

Credit: University of Manchester

Catherine had a long accomplished career working as a teacher. She had three children – who have now been followed by five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She continues to be very active in later life, even embarking on a trekking and white water rafting adventure in the Himalayas at the age of 75! She still walks her dog every day, and lives an independent life.

Do you enjoy Catherine’s story? Share this article with others so they can feel inspired as well. 



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