A 78 year old lady epitomised the phrase ‘lifelong learning’ when she received her PhD from the University of St Andrews today (Friday 23 June 2006).
Sheila Wilyman (pictured above) graduated with a PhD in contemporary Spanish literature, specifically on the representation and configuration of homosexual identity in modern Spanish fiction.
Asked why she chose St Andrews, Sheila pointed to its ‘high academic standing, old-world charm, history and tradition’.
Her supervisor Nigel Dennis said, “Sheila has worked tenaciously on this project for several years and has overcome many obstacles bringing it to fruition. The award of her PhD represents an enormous achievement and I am delighted to have been associated with it. Sheila should be as proud of herself as the Spanish Department is of her”.
Sheila lives with her husband in Dumfries and has four children, 14 grandchildren and four great- grandchildren.
She said, “Although I was always interested in languages, literature and philosophy, I pursued a career as a hospital nurse. When I was 40, I took a three-year sabbatical from nursing and read Russian Language and Literature at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at London University. At subsidiary level, I read the history of Byzantine and Russian Architecture and Art at the Courtauld Institute, submitting a dissertation on the outer walls and towers of the Kremlin. (Recently, one of my granddaughters also graduated from the Slavonic School).
“After obtaining my degree, I held a research post at the Health Services Research Centre at the University of Birmingham, later taking up a post in charge of one of the first large day care units for the elderly. Two of the objects of the centre (which in my time, in the 1970’s, was still a novel resource) were to improve the quality of life of the elderly and, hopefully, delay the ageing process. Interestingly, German and French, among numerous other facilities, were available for those who wished to take up a foreign language. After retiring, I moved to Scotland and took a second degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies through London University’s External Programme. I then applied to the St Andrews Spanish Department to research for a PhD. For many years, I had visited Spain and was particularly interested in the life and culture of the Spanish hinterland behind the coastal areas of the South”.
So what next for Sheila?
Despite being admittedly ready for a well-deserved break, she said, “I intend to write articles and publish a book based on the social and theoretical observations developed in my thesis¿.
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