Redbridge pensioner graduates with 2:1 degree - aged 84

Martin Greenberg with his certificate from the Open University. Picture: Rosalind Greenberg

Martin Greenberg with his certificate from the Open University. Picture: Rosalind Greenberg - Credit: Rosalind Greenberg

A Redbridge pensioner has become one of this year’s oldest university graduates after gaining a 2:1 in English literature and creative writing - at the age of 84.

Martin Greenberg, who left Hackney Downs Grammar School at 15, worked his entire life in the clothing industry, manufacturing garments for the likes of Selfridges and French Connection.

He officially retired at 65 but continued to freelance for nearly a decade, inspecting factories in eastern Europe before stopping work for good.

With plenty of spare time on his hands he was determined to keep his mind active.

It was his family, including wife Rosalind, who suggested doing a degree.

“My daughter graduated at the Barbican,” Martin explained.

“I went to the ceremony and she was being interviewed for the OU magazine and said: ‘My father is going to do a degree.’

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“And I said: ‘Oh am I?’ She enrolled me in the OU and I’ve never looked back.”

Martin began his English literature and creative writing degree at the same time as his two granddaughters went to university.

He said: “We encouraged each other. When they found things particularly tough they’d phone and say ‘Can I come home’ and when I found it tough I’d call and say ‘Can I come home?’ They used to say ‘You’re already at home!”

Most of his fellow students were much younger but Martin said age is no barrier.

“I was treated equally,” he said. “They accepted you for what you were. There were all sorts of people there and we were all treated fairly and had a great time.”

“A couple of times I was mistaken for a tutor and not a pupil. I thought that was good.”

Alongside studying Shakespeare and Jane Austen, Martin wrote about his childhood experiences of growing up during the Second World War.

His advice to undergraduates enduring lockdowns and online lessons is: “You can’t plan your life these days as you used to but you’ve got to take opportunities when you can and stay hopeful.”

Although his graduation ceremony is postponed, his certificate take pride of place.

He said: “The only person who doesn’t have a degree in our family is my wife but she’s cleverer than all of us.”