Lifelong learner graduates at age 77

June 8, 2012 - 3:09am

Dave Paul epitomizes lifelong learning.

At 77, Paul was the oldest graduate amongst a record 626 graduates at Vancouver Island University’s recent spring convocation. Paul earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a double minor in English and Psychology. He's been taking classes at VIU since 1997.

“VIU is an institution where faculty and staff are welcoming and helpful,” said Paul. “I couldn’t find a better place to spend my time more meaningfully.”

Originally from India, Paul immigrated to Vancouver in 1969 and worked for several years as machinist-fitter. Eventually, he earned a trade ticket at the BC Institute of Technology and moved to Montreal to work as a millwright.

Over the years, he worked in Vancouver, Port Alice and Campbell River, eventually settling in Duncan in 1976 to work at the Crofton Pulp & Paper Mill.

Paul, who raised three children in the Cowichan Valley with wife Veena, started taking night school computer science classes at VIU’s Cowichan campus 15 years ago. He registered for English 047 and English 067 through VIU's Adult Basic Education program, and continued taking classes at the Cowichan and Nanaimo campuses to the present day.

“Initially, I simply wanted to improve my English skills, so that I could take other courses,” he said. “As my English improved, I found the subject of Psychology to be very helpful in understanding the human mind and the purpose of one’s existence on Earth, in a spiritual sense. English and Psychology are a great match; they are correlated, and the faculty in each area has deeply influenced me to feel that way,” said Paul. “We are lucky to have great teachers at VIU, particularly in English and Psychology.”

As a mature student, Paul felt he was in class with grandchildren as “an old man who does not know much.

“But it was my opportunity to educate myself in their company,” he said. “They know much more than me about computer science, technology, and all other fields of inquiry, which are developing at a very rapid pace. Moreover, my teachers are my strength. They tell me that my experience of life is conducive to the younger generation. The students also say to me that they learn a lot from my participation in the class, so there is benefit for everyone.”

Last year, Paul won the Mayor Mike Coleman Citizenship award, offered annually to a top VIU student.

“It was a great honour,” said Paul. “Mr. Coleman is a renowned lawyer who served as Mayor of Duncan for a few decades,” said Paul. “He’s a great advocate for participation in one’s immediate community and, by extension, the global community. I believe that faculty at VIU felt that my activities with my fellow students, who I always deal with as my family, and in the greater community, made me worthy of this award. I have been volunteering to help students file income-tax returns for more than ten years. I have also served as a volunteer at the Cowichan 2008 North American Indigenous Games in Duncan.”

Ian Whitehouse, VIU English professor attended the convocation ceremony to witness Paul’s graduation. “Inside the classroom, Dave Paul is a lesson in humility, always seeing and encouraging the brilliance of others,” he said. “Outside the classroom, he is a great ambassador for VIU. Dave Paul is a gift of warmth, humor, and compassion.”

Although his Bachelor of Arts degree is completed, Paul plans to continue learning at VIU.

“The new campus in Cowichan is a specimen of architectural masterpiece and is considered the most beautifully designed and strongly built building in town,” he said. “Classrooms are equipped with the latest communication equipment, the theatre has the most advanced technology in theatrical communication, and the commons area is well placed with excellent amenities for students. Everyone loves the new campus, and appreciates it,” he said.

“I am eager to continue my education as far as my health allows me.”

Tags: In the Community

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