Arthur Ross set a new record for the longest time taken to complete a university degree when he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia.
Every year, many students graduate from the University of British Columbia. This year, one of them was 71-year-old Arthur Ross, who finally graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree 54 years after his enrollment. He became the new Guinness World Record holder for the longest time taken to complete a university degree. Previously the record holder was Robert F.P. Cronin (UK), who began his biology degree on 9 February 1948 at Princeton University, New Jersey, and graduated on 30 May 2000 - 52 years and 111 days later. Ross told BBC, "I have been to all of my children's graduations. My daughter says I really should go off and pursue a master's degree somewhere. I am pleased to have come this far."
Ross enrolled in the institution in 1969, fresh out of Prince of Wales High School in Vancouver and retired six years ago after finishing his 35-year legal career in 2016, reported Business Insider. He told the Vancouver Sun that although the COVID-19 pandemic slowed his path to graduation, his determination to finish what he started was motivated by a desire to learn. "I always thought maybe at some point, I would go back and try to finish off that degree, just as something to do," Ross said.
At his age, he was aware he was the oldest person in the classroom (real or virtual). That didn't bother Ross. "I'm appreciative of the students accepting that old guy tuning in from outer space," he joked. During his early education, Ross's love of learning also allowed him to become content with not being "particularly focused on anything." While Ross congratulates his fellow graduates, he claims that completing a college education is something anyone at any age can do and that the experience helped him "sharpen his brain."
"It's important to do the reports and the exams," he explained. "It sharpens your brain. And it's a constant reminder that no matter how much you think you know, you don't know enough."
The now-graduate enrolled at the University of British Columbia to pursue acting after participating in the school's theatre club. While he would excel in the field after leaving the institution to pursue a certificate from the National Theatre School, he ultimately decided to pursue a career in law. "I decided, 'Well, maybe I should go to law school and become a lawyer,' sort of that last resort for everybody who can't quite figure out what they want to do," he said.
Ross has shared that the most important takeaway from his journey has been to take advantage of his interests. He added, "It's a waste not to take the opportunity to study something, anything, that is of interest to you. Here, the opportunity has presented itself to me, and I have enjoyed it. The plan always was one course at a time. I wasn't going to sit down and take five courses all at once."
In an interview with the UBC News, he joked, "The headline on your story should be 'UBC finally graduates its slowest student.'" About the university, he said, "It was also close to home. It meant I could stay at home. I wasn't stupid." As for his degree, he added, "I obviously wanted to do it. My advice for someone in a position like mine? Make sure you want to do it, too."