At 96, Giuseppe Paterno has faced many tests in life – childhood poverty, war and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic. Now he has sailed through an exam that makes him Italy’s oldest university graduate.

This week, the former railway worker stepped forward to receive his diploma and the traditional laurel wreath awarded to Italian students when they graduate, applauded by his family, teachers and fellow students more than 70 years his junior.

Already in his 90s when he enrolled for a degree in History and Philosophy at the University of Palermo, Paterno grew up loving books, but he never had the chance to study. “I said, ‘that’s it, now or never,’ and so in 2017, I decided to enroll.”

“I understood that it was a little late to get a three-year degree but I said to myself ‘let’s see if I can do it’.” On Wednesday, he graduated first in his class with top honours. “Knowledge is like a suitcase that I carry with me, it is a treasure,” he said.

“My project for the future is to devote myself to writing; I want to revisit all the texts I didn’t have a chance to explore further. This is my goal.”


Photo courtesy Reuters

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