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It’s Never Too Late

76-year-old grad receives doctorate, establishes award in Italian Studies

Gerald Dunlevie (BA 1951 UC, MA 1986) is living proof that, in some ways, you can go back. This June, the 76-year-old will join his fellow students at convocation to receive his doctorate in Italian studies, more than five decades after completing his first degree at U of T. He follows in the footsteps of his wife, Lucile Wakelin (MA 1991, PhD 1998), who earned her doctorate in medieval studies while in her 70s. “She is smarter than I am and definitely quicker than I am,” Dunlevie joked.

In between degrees, Dunlevie enjoyed a career as a high school teacher of Greek and Latin and later as a vice-principal. Konrad Eisenbichler, a professor in Renaissance studies and Italian at Victoria College, speaks glowingly of Dunlevie’s “cultural understanding,” which he says is “a reflection of his age and education.”

Eisenbichler served as Dunlevie’s professor and thesis advisor, but the two men also became friends. One evening, Eisenbichler was visiting Dunlevie and Wakelin at their Toronto home when Dunlevie remarked that, as a retired vice-principal, he didn’t need the full $17,000 stipend granted each year to U of T doctoral students. Eisenbichler suggested giving some of the money back to the department.

Over the next two years, Dunlevie, an active member of the tight-knit Italian studies community, donated $20,000 to the department. His gift, matched by the provincial government, became the Lucile Wakelin Dunlevie Graduate Award in Italian Studies. “Education is a contagious passion that is communicated from teacher to student,” Dunlevie says. “I feel so very, very fortunate for the scholarly opportunities I’ve received.”

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  1. 2 Responses to “ It’s Never Too Late ”

  2. Christian R Szabo says:

    No comments?

    Surprising, because this story is very inspiring.

    So many older, prospective PhD students tend to worry about starting the degree later on in life. Concerns about competitiveness and ageism are common. However, the advantages that come with age and experience seem to fit nicely with the sort of discipline and commitment required to complete a PhD.

  3. Donna Melnyk says:

    Lucile Wakelin continues to be a source of inspiration! As a former student of Mrs. Waklein's I can state without any hesitation that her passion for learning made a significant impression on her students. She inspired me to pursue teaching as a career and commit to being a lifelong learner. Congatulations to both Lucile Wakelin and Gerald Dunlevie. In realizing your dreams you have revealed the possibilities available to others.