“Being able to study has always been my greatest aspiration, but my family wasn’t able to pay for my education,” a smiling Giusseppe Paternò said this month, after completing a three-year degree at the University of Palermo. “We were a large family and very poor.
“I’ve finally realised my dream.”
In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, there’s a sweet story to hold onto. A 96-year-old man from Sicily has graduated with a first class honours in philosophy from the University of Palermo.
And in doing so, he’s become Italy’s oldest-ever university graduate.
A profile in The Guardian reveals that Paternò started his working life at his father’s brewery in Palermo, before working as a telegrapher for the Italian army in 1943.
He then became a railway worker — something he wasn’t excited by, “but I knew I had to do it because by that time I was married and had a family to support.”
Paternò eventually graduated from high school at the age of 31, after attending night school, and joined his local university in 2017.
“I’d wake up at seven to study,” he adds to The Guardian. “I’d use an old typewriter to complete my assignments. I’d rest in the afternoon and in the evening I’d study until midnight.
“My neighbours used to ask, ‘why all this trouble at your age?’ But they couldn’t understand the importance of reaching a dream, regardless of my age.”
With the pandemic, all the courses went online, yet Guiseppe Paternò was determined to see them through, rather than wait to take the course again in the Autumn.
His next ambition? To study a master’s degree, which he hopes to do before he turns 100.
And as set out in Italian newspaper Corriera Della Sera, he has one piece of advice for young people: “Study, study, study.”
Paternò’s story stands in contrast to that of Belgian wunderkid Laurent Simons, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Eindhoven last year — when he was just nine years old.