Chigwell grandfather, 78, graduates from university

A 78-year-old grandfather and former cabbie has graduated from university after a 60 year education gap.

Gerald Nathanson, of Chigwell was “delighted” after being awarded a 2:2 in British history from Birkbeck College after studying for four years.

Mr Nathanson, who lives with his wife, Carol, was evacuated during the Second World War and never re-entered full-time education after attending 11 different schools.

Not only did Mr Nathanson graduate with a BA honours but he also won The Dakin Prize, which recognises a student’s hard work and dedication in gaining their degree, regardless of their social background.

He said: “I originally turned the award down as I didn’t think I was worthy but the tutors pressed on me what the prize meant. When I graduated it didn’t seem real, I’m still coming back to earth now.

“I was evacuated from London several times during the Blitz, and I even went to live in Lancashire for a little while, which is when I saw a cow for the first time. I just lost the thread of study and at times there were up to 60 children in my class.”

“But I always felt conscious that I wasn’t educated,” he added.

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Mr Nathanson got his first taste of education as an adult when he did his National Service in 1952, completing medical exams as part of the Air Force.

The father-of-two said: “I always thought there must be more and I always liked reading about history, and my family just told me to go for it.

“After a first couple of weeks I nearly chucked it all in as I’d forgotten how to learn and take it all in. But everyone was so supportive including the students who thought it was hilarious that I could recall the Second World War first hand.”

Mr Nathanson, who descries his graduation ceremony as “emotional,” was overwhelmed when his son made the trip from New Zealand to surprise him.

He added: “I feel really empty now I’ve finished but I hope to continue with history and deliver talks as well as the tours I run around the country.”