Seventy-one-year-old Marinze Ifeyinwa Felicia made history at the just-concluded 51st convocation of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Lagos. She emerged the oldest to be awarded a doctorate degree in the history of the university and was reckoned among the best graduating students from the institution’s school of postgraduate studies.
The university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said Marinze, who earned PhD (French) from the Department of European Languages and International Studies, numbered among 148 graduands to be awarded doctorate degrees by the institution in various fields. According to him, she thereby showed to the world that age is never a barrier to attaining any height. “We have a record in the university. Marinze Ifeyinwa Felicia, born on 6th March 1950 (now 71 years old) will be the oldest to be awarded a PhD degree in the history of the university. She has just demonstrated to the world that age is no barrier to attaining any height, “ Ogundipe said at a media conference preceding the convocation ceremonies. He added that Moruf Rasheed Olatunji in the Department of Marine Science, Faculty of Science, and Mesagan Peter Ekundayo, in the Department of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences, had outstanding PhD theses alongside Mrs. Marinze. There were a total of 15,753 students who bagged degrees at the three-day convocation.
At 71 years, Marinze may well have set a Nigerian record in determination and resoluteness on academic accomplishment. She beats the feat by another woman, 70-year-old Justina Obi, reported to have previously bagged a PhD in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). At the time that UNILAG was founded in 1962, she was already nearing her teens, and she was born only two years after the premier Nigerian institution, University of Ibadan, opened shop in 1948. Marinze’s record is shy of the likes of 94-year-old great-grandfather David Bottomley reported to be Australia’s oldest PhD graduate, and the late German pediatrician Ingeborg Rapoport said to be the world’s oldest PhD graduate at 102 years. But considering the peculiarly inclement socio-political environment and chaotic education system in Nigeria, she gets the prize for sheer grit and endurance.
Biographic accounts indicated that Marinze, who is said to be widowed, had her secondary education at Rosary High School, Awgu in Enugu State, and her tertiary education at the University of Ibadan as well as UNILAG. She worked at the Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos. Her achievement offers enormous inspiration to generations, young and old, that nothing could deter the accomplishment of a goal that one sets himself / herself to achieve, and that there is no nightfall in the attainment of success.
As Professor Ogundipe put it, age is no barrier to attaining any height. Even as a septuagenarian, she not only pulled through the rigours of doctoral work but did so in flying colours. That is another moral in commitment to excel.
We applaud Marinze for her resolve, drive, persistence and follow-through and recommend her as a worthy role model of the maxim that whatever the mind can conceive, it is able to achieve.