‘Remarkable’ 90 year old scholar proves age is just number after earning PhD

Dec 21, 2023
Dr. Herbert's story serves as an inspiration, proving that age is indeed just a number when it comes to pursuing one's passion. Source: Getty Images.

In a remarkable testament to the power of lifelong learning, Dr. Bronwyn Herbert, a 90-year-old social worker, has earned her PhD, challenging the notion that age is a barrier to academic pursuits.

Dr. Herbert’s journey into academia began in 1961 when she initially enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Queensland. However, the demands of raising a family led her to temporarily discontinue her studies after the birth of her second child, Jeff. Undeterred by the hiatus, Dr. Herbert returned to university later in life, inspired by an old friend, when her daughter Katrina was considering career options.

Her academic pursuits culminated in her graduation in 1982, marking the beginning of a distinguished career in social work, where she dedicated herself to helping families in crisis. Dr. Herbert’s passion for her work defied societal norms as she continued to make significant contributions well into her 80s.

“In my 50s, when many people were thinking about lessening their workload and perhaps retirement, I was all enthusiastic and just wanted to get going,” Dr Herbert remarked.

“And I kept going until I was 81!”

Source: UQ Communications.

Dr. Herbert’s PhD thesis, focused on the generational impacts of homelessness, was born out of her observations over the years. Concerned about young people falling into homelessness as adults after experiencing it in their childhood, she sought to understand the intergenerational aspects of the problem.

“Over many years I noticed that some young people who’d been homeless as children with their parents were falling into homelessness as adults, and I wondered what we could have done differently to prevent this intergenerational problem,” Dr Herbert said.

“There was little written about how early homelessness affected their relationships, education, and employment, so I decided to follow that up and try and close some of those gaps with information.”

Her groundbreaking work has not gone unnoticed. Professor Parsell from the School of Social Science at UQ paid tribute to Dr. Herbert’s achievements, describing them as “truly outstanding.”

“Bronwyn faced her fair share of obstacles, but her accomplishments are testimony to her ability to never give up, and to see the opportunities in problems,” Professor Parsell said.

“She is a remarkable scholar who embodies the ethical and solution focused research central to UQ’s vision.”

Dr. Herbert’s story serves as an inspiration, proving that age is indeed just a number when it comes to pursuing one’s passion for learning and making a meaningful impact on society.

Her dedication to addressing social issues and her tenacity in the pursuit of knowledge exemplify the ethos of lifelong learning at its finest.


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