More than five decades after he started university degree, Arthur Ross finally completed his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia (UBC) on Thursday. Mr Ross, 71, is now the new record holder for the longest time to complete a university degree after taking 54 years to graduate.
“The headline on your story should be ‘UBC finally graduates its slowest student,'” the now 71-year-old retiree told UBC with an easy laugh.
Mr Ross enrolled in UBC in 1969. In an interview with BBC, Mr Ross said, “I just wanted to learn because I was curious. That desire for learning, he said, is what inspired him to finish his degree after all these years.
According to a UBC press release, Mr Ross’s initial plan was to get a degree in English, but by his second year, Mr Ross’s passion for the theatre had fully taken over and he was spending as much time as possible in the theatre department, doing shows and taking courses to pursue his nascent goal of becoming an actor.
“I was besotted with theatre at the time. It was alive then, with a sense of vitality and newness. It seemed just electric to me,” Ross remembers. In the department, Ross would cross paths with renowned Canadian actors such as Nicola Cavendish, Larry Lillo, Brent Carver and Ruth Nichol, inspiring him further to pursue theatre.
Two years into his degree at UBC and with stars in his eyes, Ross left to complete a three-year program at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. But the practical reality of the actor’s life and his assessment of his own proficiency brought him to a painful conclusion.
“I liked it too much. It wasn’t going to be healthy for me. I knew I was a good actor but I always thought you had to be great.”
So he did what any aspiring actor who recognizes they may be outclassed would do in 1975. Ross took his three years of academic work at UBC and went to law school in Toronto, graduated and spent 35 years as a civil litigator in Metro Vancouver before retiring in 2016.
In November of 2016, he called UBC, got a new student number, and by January of 2017 he was a part-time student focusing on history, with a particular interest in the First World War.
“I simply could not grasp why so many people would be prepared to participate in this butchery,” he explains. “However, the great revelation of pursuing a history degree was not in answering that initial question, but in looking at the sordid nature of Canadian history.”
“I’m appreciative of the students accepting that old guy tuning in from outer space,” he told UBC.