MOST university students see their graduation as the day they finally grow up and enter the big bad world.
But one of those taking part in today’s ceremony for Edinburgh Napier students will be standing out from the crowd. At 84 years young, David Dick is believed to be Scotland’s oldest graduate – and possibly one of the most qualified.
David, who has five daughters, 13 grandchildren and one great grandchild, said: “At first I think my fellow students were a bit surprised to see this funny old guy in their lectures. They were very kind to me though, even when in one lecture this TV show called X Factor came up – I’d never heard of it, which made the rest of the class erupt in fits of laughter.”
The PhD he will receive today for his thesis on gender equality in Scottish education takes David’s total number of university qualifications up to five – not bad for someone who left school at the age of 12 with no qualifications. David, who lives in Craiglockhart with Muriel, his wife of nearly 60 years, said: “I had just started Boroughmuir Secondary when I developed an acute ear infection called Mastoiditis. It took me out of commission for about a year. It even caused me to go blind for about a month.”
After David had recovered, his father, who was away fighting in World War Two at the time, decided the youngster’s time would be better spent in employment than education.
“He wrote to my mother and told her I should get a job, so I became a telegram boy for the War Office, which was terrible, delivering bad news to so many families. But I always felt I was ill educated because I had left school so early.”
He’s certainly made up for it since. After completing an apprenticeship during his teenage years, he became a hydropower engineer, before securing a teaching job at Dundee College of Technology.
His teaching career is impressive – he eventually became Napier College’s first ever Vice Principal in 1965 and then spent 17 years as Principal of Stevenson College.
David was also instrumental in setting up a Fire Officer course at Napier, and was chairman of the Fire Services Examination Board in Scotland for 17 years, which led to an OBE in 1982.
“I collected my OBE at Buckingham Palace. The Queen was away, so Prince Charles awarded them and Princess Diana was there too.”
As if this wasn’t enough, David has also authored six books looking at the origins of street names in Edinburgh and South Africa, where he lived for a short time. His PhD will be the third university qualification he has been awarded since his retirement in 1987.
He said: “Student life has changed a lot since my first time round – for the better, I think. There’s a lot more support for students and a more emphasis on social aspects.”
Degrees of recognition
DAVID isn’t the only more mature person picking up a new qualification this week.
Richard Jobson, pictured, the writer, film director and former singer with The Skids received an honorary doctorate of the arts.
And Jeremy Beeton, the man who oversaw the staging of the London 2012 Olympics, has been awarded an honorary degree by Edinburgh Napier University.
The director general of the Government Olympic Executive (GOE) was awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering at a ceremony in the Usher Hall on Wednesday.
He said: “It is a privilege to receive an honorary degree today from Edinburgh Napier University; an institution which plays such a key role in growing the UK economy.”