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Durham University News

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Graduation day…54 years late!

(30 June 2006)

Thomas Wilkinson and Karen Wilkinson-Bell with Chancellor Bill Bryson

Graduation day at Durham University will be a double celebration for one family, as a daughter collects her MBA (Master of Business Administration) and her father formally graduates - 54 years after he completed his degree.

Seventy-eight-year-old retired teacher Thomas Wilkinson was called up to do National Service while studying for his degree in Ancient History, French & Modern History in the early 1950s. He was unable to join his peers at graduation in 1952, because he was signed up as a reservist, and had to take his degree ‘in absentia’. On Friday June 30th he will join his daughter, Karen Wilkinson-Bell, who receives her MBA from Durham Business School at the same ceremony in Durham Cathedral. Father and daughter will be presented to the Chancellor of the University, Bill Bryson, who announces the official conferment of degrees at the end of each ceremony. The family also has extra cause for celebration after Karen was awarded a ‘distinction’ for her MBA. Karen, regional director of North East Business In The Community, said: “Dad and I are absolutely thrilled that we’re able to graduate together. He was excited enough to be coming to the Cathedral to see me graduate, but when he discovered he would finally be receiving his degree too, he was ecstatic! “He was the first in our family to go to university and he really regretted not being able to graduate in person. Dad’s also a fan of Bill Bryson, so this will be the icing on the cake!” Thomas has recently found the original gown he should have worn for his ceremony over half a century ago, which he will be wearing for his belated graduation. Since studying at Durham, he has kept in touch with the University through his college alumni at St Cuthbert’s Society and still attends reunion events. Durham University’s Vice-Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman said: "Our degree days are family occasions in every sense of the word, because we always think of the wider community of graduates as part of the ‘university family’. “I am delighted that Mr Wilkinson has this opportunity to complete the full graduation experience, and especially when he can share the day with his daughter. “Congratulations to them both - even if, in his case, they are a little delayed."

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