79-year-old graduates with university degree
October 24, 2018
Nobody can take away learning from you and it’s never too late to go back to school.
No one knows this more than Osra Lindo.
In her mid-70s and retired after more than three decades in the banking industry, there are a few items still left on her bucket list.
Matriculating from university was right at the top.
The engaging septuagenarian graduated with a degree in gender, sexuality and women’s studies from York University on October 11.
“It was four years of hard work, but I enjoyed it and the interaction I had with so many people around here,” Lindo, 79, said. “I had never been to university before and I realised I wanted to experience it after volunteering as an English as Second Language (ESL) teacher. That’s when I really got the urge to do this.”
Lindo said it was important for her to study a ‘living’ subject.
“It’s an interesting field,’ she said. “It is about what’s happening with women these days and with gender equality. It’s not binary anymore and we have to embrace all sectors. I thought it was a subject that would be good to experience and understand.”
Though she was the oldest person in her classes on the later-in-life learning voyage, Lindo wasn’t daunted by the generational gap.
“As I was about to enter a campus door, I would look up and see someone holding it for me,” she said. “Students looked out for me and I really felt as if people cared.”
Asked how she was going to celebrate the milestone, the words, ‘with a rum punch’ was quick to come out of her mouth.
“I think I deserve that,” said Lindo.
The degree will hang in a prominent place in her Scarborough home.
“Of course, I want everyone to see what I have accomplished, particularly my five grandchildren,” she noted. “When they come over, I will point it out to them and say, ‘look what I have achieved and just think what you can do’.”
Lindo was an inspiration for Nadia Habib who taught her three courses.
“In my 23 years of teaching at York University, Osra is the oldest student I have taught and the most inspirational,” said Habib who has been at York since 1987 when she embarked on her undergraduate degree. “She came to my classes at an opportune time as I was experiencing a personal crisis. She knew what I was going through and sent me uplifting emails weekly. I don’t think she knows what that did for me. This is an amazing woman with lots of energy.”
Celeta Irvin met Lindo in a bridging program she co-ordinates in York’s School of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies that offers academic bridging courses for women who want to upgrade their writing and speaking skills and explore the possibility of university study.
“Osra really didn’t need to do that program because I am sure she would have met the entrance requirements,” said Irvin. “She completed that course with flying colours. This is a woman who will always be in my life because she is special. Once you meet Osra, you fall in love with her.”
Lisa Lindo travelled from Halifax to celebrate the special occasion with her mother.
“I am over the moon,” said the jazz singer. “This is something mom wanted to do and she worked very hard to make sure it happened. I know there is more to come.”
Lindo plans to become proficient in Japanese and French and on the piano.
Her eldest child, Gerald Lindo, is married to a Japanese woman and they have two boys.
“The only Japanese word I could say is ‘sayonara’ (it means goodbye),” she said. “They are fluent in the language and I want to be saying more than that to my grandsons when they come over. Canada is bilingual and I just don’t understand why more young people are not seizing the opportunity to learn French. As for the piano, I like it, but it doesn’t like me. There are two pianos in my home and I have vowed that I will be good at playing them.”
Kitchener Centre New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Provincial Parliament Dr. Laura Mae Lindo is the youngest of the new university graduate four children.
“It means so much to all of us,” the NDP’s anti-racism and citizenship & immigration services critic said. “Growing up as first-generation Canadians, we are often reminded by our parents of the importance of education. But what rarely is talked about is the amount of sacrifices those new immigrants in Canada have to make when it comes to their own desires for their own educational achievements. I have my Master’s and PhD. because of my mom and dad who felt it was very important for us to have a good education and be successful. You can have those success stories, but then hidden in there is, ‘What did my parents want to achieve and the hurdles they encountered when they tried to go to school’.
“For mommy, it has always been that she wanted to graduate from university. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her. She is retired at least three times. I remember the first time she retired, she sort of went into depression because there is this vision that we have that retirement means that you stop doing. The minute she stopped, that wasn’t who she was. While she was doing her degree, she was volunteering at the zoo as she has been doing for many years on weekends during the summer. She makes sure she is always active.”
Gregory Lindo, the third of the four children, is a musician.
Lindo worked with Barclays Bank in Jamaica prior to migrating 52 years ago. She spent 32 years with Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion before retiring.