World War Two veteran gains PhD

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Eric Wooff and children Louise Francis, Chris and Clare and Chancellor Sir Chris Bonington

Lancaster University has awarded a PhD to their oldest student, retired teacher Eric Wooff. He received the PhD in Education only a month after celebrating his ninetieth birthday. When asked by University House about his achievement, Mr. Wooff described the experience as “encouraging and stimulating”, claiming, “University brings out the best in you”.

At the beginning of his life, Wooff was educated at a grammar school, before qualifying for entry into London University after sitting his A Levels. Unfortunately war got in the way and Wooff was evacuated to Somerset for a period, which forced him to leave school at just sixteen. He moved back to London just before the Blitz and engaged in office work in the West End. In that latter years of the conflict Wooff went on to serve in the RAF.

In 1952, after leaving London and moving north, with a wife who was “totally supportive”, Wooff retrained as a teacher and took a position at Appleby Grammar School in Cumbria, teaching maths. He worked at the school for over twenty years and reminisced how he “loved teaching and that it gave [him] immense personal satisfaction” to be involved with in all aspects of school life, including extra-curricular and promoting Further Education within the school.

Following his retirement, Wooff discovered that he was eligible for support from the Appleby Heritage Centre. With that, Woolf began studying Education in his spare time and gained an MA from the University of East Anglia in 2003. He then went on to complete further studies at the University of Cumbria, where staff encouraged him to move to Lancaster University and study for his PhD.

Wooff claims that at the start of his life “University was not an option for me… [and] graduating was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life”. Now that he has attained his PhD he hopes to submit articles to professional journals on the topics of education. Mr Wooff also hopes that his achievement under such exceptional circumstances will “encourage others” to achieve their own lifetime goals.