Nurse, 78, is a doctor at long last

June 30, 2006

The study of homosexual identities in Spanish literature is unlikely to appeal to the typical septuagenarian great-grandparent, writes Olga Wojtas.

But former nurse Sheila Wilyman, who has graduated from St Andrews University with a PhD at the age of 78, is hardly typical.

At 40, she took a sabbatical from her career as a hospital nurse to study Russian at London University's School of Slavonic and East European Studies. She went on to a research post at Birmingham University's Health Services Research Centre, later taking charge of one of the first large day-care units for the elderly. Language courses were offered to improve the quality of life of the elderly and slow down the ageing process, a message Ms Wilyman has clearly taken on board.

"After retiring, I moved to Scotland and took a second degree in Spanish and Latin American studies through London University's external programme,"

she said.

She chose St Andrews for a PhD in Spanish literature because of its "high academic standing, old-world charm, history and tradition". Her PhD investigates how homosexual identity is represented in modern Spanish fiction.

Although Dr Wilyman has four children, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, she does not plan to give up work to spend more time with her family. "I intend to write articles and publish a book based on the social and theoretical observations developed in my thesis," she said.

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