Selfless 86-year-old student is a true diamond
One of the University of Sheffield's oldest ever students has been nominated for a national award, supported by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Graham Bell, 86, of Handsworth is studying French through the Institute of Lifelong Learning (TILL) at the University and will be 90 when he graduates.
The retired steel worker and Royal Navy D-Day veteran has been nominated for the Diamond Champions scheme that honours unsung heroes over 60 for their selfless voluntary work.
In between his studies Graham volunteers for many charities and has helped to raise more than £10,000 for several local organisations including Sheffield Children's Hospital, Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind and Brunswick Gardens Retirement Village in Woodhouse.
Graham, who has three children and six grandchildren, was shocked to be nominated for the prestigious accolade.
He said: "There is something about the word volunteer – whenever I see it I feel the need to put my name forward. It came as a bit of a shock to discover I had been nominated, it is quite an honour.
"As well as helping children to read at school I also support elderly people at the gym four times a week – I make sure they don't fall off the treadmills and ensure they behave themselves. And I do a bit of training at the same time"
At the age of 60 Graham ran the London Marathon in the impressive time of three hours 40 minutes. He continues to run every day and will be once again taking part in the Great Yorkshire Run on 2 September 2012 , in aid of Support Dogs, a Sheffield based assistance dogs charity who bring independence and improved quality of life to people whose lives are restricted by physical disabilities, severe epilepsy and autism.
Graham added: "I really enjoy running although I am a bit slower these days. I like facing new challenges and I like to have something new to conquer."
Never too old to learn
Graham, who was awarded an MBE six years ago, began studying French through TILL in 2008. TILL gives people who previously ruled out higher education the chance to study alongside their existing work commitments, family and other responsibilities. Evening classes, weekend sessions, independent and online modules and flexible programmes give people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to allow their abilities to flourish.
Graham said: "I have been obsessed with French all of my life and I thoroughly enjoy my studies at the University of Sheffield. I currently have two essays to write - one regarding Brittany which is 2,000 words and one on a French film which is 2,500 words. I have to make sure I do some reading every day to keep on top of my studies.
"I am always the oldest person in the classes but everyone is so supportive, especially my tutors. I will be 90 when I graduate – that's if I am still alive!"
Dr Sophie Bélot, Programme Director from TILL said: "When Graham signed up for our TILL course he brought with him his lifelong passion for French language and culture, which he has successfully managed to develop into a formal qualification. Graham is an outstanding example for people who want to share and cultivate their interests whilst gaining a university Degree, no matter what their stage of life."
To find out more about TILL visit the next open day event on Wednesday 12 September 2012, between 12 noon and 7pm. Between 12 noon and 3pm TILL will host interactive taster sessions to give anyone interested in furthering their education a chance to experience what is on offer.
Between 3pm and 7pm visitors can talk individually to TILL course leaders about their of choice. Discover more about the flexibility of studying through TILL and the financial support available for adult learners.
For more information visit www.sheffield.ac.uk or contact: 0114 222 7000,
Organisers of the Diamond Champions scheme, WRVS, have received 4,573 nominations who represent 249 charities. Nominees have been put forward by those they help, neighbours and friends.
A total of 480 shortlisted volunteers from eight regions will attend local celebrations and receive a certificate and a pin commissioned by the royal couple. Ten people from each region will meet Prince Charles and Camilla in November.
The Institute of Lifelong Learning
2012 is an excellent time to start studying with the Institute of Lifelong Learning. There are fee waivers and generous financial support packages for individuals on low incomes. Loans are not repaid until you are in well-paid employment. There is a wide range of subjects on offer from IT to Modern Languages to Archaeology, and a Foundation Programme designed specifically to support adult students back into formal learning.
The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.
The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.
For further information please contact:
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859