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Arthur Ross started college more than 50 years ago, but it wasn’t until Thursday that he got his Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia (UBC). Mr. Ross, who is 71 years old, is the new record holder for taking the longest time to finish college. It took him 54 years to get his degree.
“The headline of your story should say, ‘UBC finally graduates its slowest student,'” the 71-year-old retiree told UBC with a laugh.
In 1969, Mr. Ross went to UBC. Mr. Ross told BBC, “I just wanted to learn because I was interested.” He said that his drive to learn was what made him go back to school after all these years.
According to a press release from UBC, Mr. Ross’s original plan was to get a degree in English. However, by the end of his second year, his love for the theater had taken over, and he was spending as much time as possible in the theatre department, putting on shows and taking classes to become an actor.
“At the time, I was crazy about theater. It had a sense of being alive and new at the time. Ross says, “It seemed so electric to me.” Ross would meet famous Canadian actors like Nicola Cavendish, Larry Lillo, Brent Carver, and Ruth Nichol in the area, which made him want to go into theater even more.
Ross left UBC after two years to finish a three-year study at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. He did this with stars in his eyes. But the actor’s life in the real world and his own evaluation of his skills led him to a sad conclusion.
“It was too good. I knew it wouldn’t be good for me. I always thought you had to be great to be a good actress.
So he did what any actor-wannabe in 1975 would have done if they thought they might be behind the times. Ross went to school for three years at UBC and then went to law school in Toronto. After he finished, he worked as a civil litigator in Metro Vancouver for 35 years before he retired in 2016.
In November 2016, he called UBC and asked for a new student number. By January 2017, he was a part-time history student who was especially interested in the First World War.
“I just couldn’t understand why so many people were willing to take part in this slaughter,” he says. “However, the big surprise of getting a history degree wasn’t finding the answer to that first question. It was seeing how sad Canadian history is.”
“I’m glad the students don’t mind that an old man is listening in from space,” he told UBC.