CANBERRA, Australia – A 94-year-old great-great-grandmother who left school at the age of 12 appears to be the world's oldest recipient of a master's degree, an official with Guinness World Records said Friday.
University of Adelaide graduate Phyllis Turner was awarded her master's degree in medical science earlier this week at a ceremony in her hometown of Adelaide, surrounded by generations of offspring.
"We do have the category for oldest Master's graduate, but we don't have a current record," said spokeswoman Amarilis Espinoza in London.
She said if Turner applied to the world records foundation, she would likely be awarded the record. "We very much encourage her to do so," Espinoza said.
Turner's supervisor Prof. Maciej Henneberg said he had urged Turner to continue her studies to earn a doctorate, but she had so far declined his offer of help.
"People survive to 101 but rarely with a mind so young," Henneberg said.
"Her intellect is capable of completing a Ph.D., but her health is less certain; she is reluctant," he said, adding that a doctorate would take more than three years.
Turner quit school at age 12 to help her mother look after her siblings after they were abandoned by their father.
After raising her own seven children and two stepchildren, she completed her school education at nights because "I love study," she told Adelaide's SA-FM radio station this week.
At 70, she enrolled at the University of Adelaide and at 72, won a 12-month scholarship to study at the University of California.
After California, she enrolled at the Australian National University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in anthropology. She said she decided to pursue her masters degree when her husband died five years ago.
Turner said she felt she could achieve a Ph.D. but her family wanted her to take life easy.
"The only trouble is, I'm short of years," she said.
Espinoza said the oldest person recorded as being awarded a Ph.D, is Edgar Dowse, who graduated from The London School of Theology at the age of 93 years and 268 days in June 2004.
It means that if Turner did chose to continue with her studies, she could eventually hold two records.
Espinoza said the current oldest degree graduate is Mozelle Richardson, who won a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism aged 90 years 103 days, from the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, in May 2004.