Great-great-granny, 94, earns masters degree

Updated: 2007-08-03 15:17

Ninty four-year-old Phyllis Turner (C) poses with her supervisors, Professor Colin Groves (L) and Professor Maciej Henneberg after she received her Masters degree in Medical Science from at the University of Adelaide in this handout photograph made available on August 2, 2007. [Reuters]
SYDNEY - A 94-year-old Australian great-great-grandmother has become the oldest person in the world to earn a masters degree, local media reported Thursday.

Phyliss Turner, described by one of her sons as having "an amazing brain," took her masters in medical science at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Turner had been forced to leave school at the age of 12 to help her mother care for the family after her father abandoned them, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Nearly 60 years later she enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology at Adelaide and won a 12-month scholarship to study at the University of California.

"I entered university when I was 70 and I came top in the essay section when I did my entry exam," said the mother of seven, who has 23 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren.

She graduated in 1986, did her honours in 2002 and then entered the university's medical school to do her masters.

Professor Maciej Henneberg, her supervisor, said Turner had "a lively and fresh intellect." The boast about her "amazing brain" came from her son Tom.

"We are very proud of her," daughter Anne O'Herran said. "She is the oldest higher degree research graduate in the world and we're putting her in the Guinness Book of Records."

The master herself said she was delighted.

"I feel very, very happy after five years of study, but sorry that I am just a little bit immobilised," said Turner, who uses a walking stick.

"I don't feel old and I would like to go on to further study, but I am a bit of a liability to other people now."

Despite her academic achievements, Turner said she was most proud of her seven children and two step-children.

"They were all very good children," she said.

Granddaughter Sue Rudall returned the compliment: "She is a strong old matriarch," she said.


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