Former student graduates 76 years after completing degree

The 95 year-old finished his Modern History degree in 1942

Trower, accompanied by family, at his graduation. Photo: First Degree Photography / Mel Cunningham.

A 95-year-old former Oxford student attended his graduation ceremony on Saturday, 76 years after finishing his degree.

John Trower, who studied Modern History at New College, began his course in January 1941. As during the Second World War degrees were shortened by one year, Trower completed his course in 1942.

Upon completion of his degree, Trower joined the army. But, unlike most of his peers, he did not attend a graduation ceremony when he returned. Speaking in an interview on BBC Radio Oxford, Trower attributed this to “inefficiency on my part”.

He said: “When I came out of the army I wasn’t at that point, I was starting a career as a freelance writer and I wasn’t thinking in those terms.”

This weekend’s graduation ceremony at New College, ending the 76-year delay, was organised by Trower’s nephews, who according to Trower, “thought it might be amusing”. Trower was accompanied at his graduation by one of the nephews, along with other members of his family.

According to Trower, Oxford during the war was “very different” from what it is today, however there were “some remnants” of what would now be recognised as typical student life. He recalled being a member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, which had been “revived” by “theatrical don” Neville Coghill.

Reflecting more broadly on living in Oxford during the war, Trower said: “They didn’t bomb Oxford as they might have done. One didn’t live in expectation of air raids to the same extent as one did if one was outside Oxford somewhere.”

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