Joyce Barry is not your typical octogenarian. She already has three degrees and today the 86-year-old University of Newcastle student will accept her PhD.
The achievement will be celebrated with her six sons, one of whom is travelling from London to witness the special occasion.
Born in England, Mrs Barry’s early school education was interrupted when World War II broke out and she and her younger brother spent two years as evacuees along with thousands of other London children. Homesick, the pair returned to London and lived through The Blitz.
“By the time I was 15 my piecemeal education, taking place when not in air-raid shelters, had suffered and I left school to become a junior clerk in an office near Tower Bridge. Five years later I was married and in 1949 came to Sydney where my six sons were born and their education became my priority.”
When Mrs Barry’s late husband retired and the couple moved to the Central Coast in 1984 she completed an enabling course in English and Philosophy through the University of Newcastle.
When she was almost 60, Mrs Barry began studying part-time a Bachelor of Arts through the University. She took nine years to complete the degree, a result of taking over the care of her mother following the sudden early death of her younger brother. She later completed her Honours and Masters, focusing on Shakespearen comedy and drama. Continuing to focus on her passion of literature, Mrs Barry’s PhD thesis examines a topic very close to her heart, 17th Century English literary identity Samuel Pepys.
Mrs Barry said her experience of higher education had been extremely rewarding.
“I’ve found the research so exciting – I’ve really loved it, it’s like being a detective. I cannot explain how much the last 27 years studying have enriched my life, and the lives of those around me – much younger people of course, who have said they have been inspired to follow suit.”
Throughout her postgraduate study, Mrs Barry’s supervisor, Professor Hugh Craig has offered unwavering support.
“His dedication to teaching, his kindness and his knowledge have also greatly enriched my quality of life at a time when most people’s thoughts are of their life ending.” She also valued the support from her second supervisor Dr Shane Holtaas.
Mrs Barry’s passion for writing and literature will feed her next project, a book about her early life experiences in England.
“My sons know I went through The London Blitz, during the second World War. They don’t encourage me to talk about it because they do not like to think of me living through such an experience, but have always asked if I would write about it for them and their children.”
Joyce Barry will accept her PhD at the Faculty of Education and Arts ceremony at 2pm today.
More than 1,000 students have celebrated the completion of their studies during ceremonies at the Callaghan campus over the past two days.
Friday 5 October graduates: