Thursday 21 November 2019

Ireland's 'oldest' student Tom thrilled to collect degree

Phyllis and Tom Boyle
Phyllis and Tom Boyle

David Looby

Sixty years after he first went to college, Ramsgrange resident Tom Boyle is finally going to collect his degree this Thursday, as back in the Fifties work got in the way of him fulfilling his college dream.

Tom, who is regarded as possibly Ireland's oldest undergraduate student, turns 82 this Friday and what better present to celebrate the big birthday than picking up a degree in Irish and English surrounded by family and friends.

In September 2017 - at the tender age of 79 - the Co Leitrim man shot to national attention when he proved it's never too late to go to college when he returned to complete a three year degree in Law. He switched the degree to English and Irish in his second year at WIT as he didn't have a grá for Law. 'I had already done my first year of an Arts degree in UCD in 1959 so I was able to transfer it.'

Returning to college is something that mature student Tom wishes he had done 10 or 20 years ago.

'If I can do it anyone can,' the inspirational octogenarian said.

Married 52 years to retired civil servant Phyllis, Tom enrolled on WIT's Level 8 law degree, the LLB Bachelor of Laws (Hons) in September 2017, with 60 years' more life experience than many of his school leaver peers. He said he is emotional and excited about collecting his degree this Thursday in Waterford.

'I feel like I have achieved something that I should have achieved at a younger age. I started my college education in 1959 and here I am finishing it 60 years later.'

Tom worked at the Agriculture Credit Corporation and went on to have seven children with Phyllis: Siobhán, Niamh, Orla, Tomás, Aisling, Cliona and Bláthnaid.

He said returning to college was daunting, but something he really enjoyed doing. He said the kindness his fellow students and the staff showed him was overwhelming. 'From the first day, everyone was so welcoming. The WIT staff and lecturers were fantastic, I can't say enough good things about them,' he said.

The former taxi driver said the course was challenging, but enjoyable at the same time. A lover of the Irish language he said he thoroughly enjoyed the course. 'I'm very proud. I had to give up my course back in 1959 so this is the realisation of a life-long dream.'

He is considering continuing his studies but first he'll relish picking up his degree and a family lunch in Ramsgrange afterwards to celebrate the big historic occasion.

New Ross Standard