PhD, 76, shows zest for life, and life-long learning

Flinders PhD, Dr Roderick Essery, with his daughters Elaine Dalby and Michelle Rodeh, this week at graduations.
Flinders PhD, Dr Roderick Essery, with his daughters Elaine Dalby and Michelle Rodeh, this week at graduations.

While most of his friends were contemplating their retirement years, Roderick Essery was embarking on a life-changing experience at Flinders University.

Dr Essery, 76, graduated this week with a PhD in Social and Behavioural Sciences (American Studies), making him the university’s fourth eldest PhD graduate in the past decade.

A UK immigrant who spent most of his working life in Adelaide as a new car salesman, Dr Essery only began his tertiary studies at the age of 63 when he enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and history.

Inspired by his two adult daughters, Michelle Rodeh and Elaine Dalby – themselves graduates of Flinders University in 1988 and 1992 respectively – Dr Essery went on to study Honours in American History before taking on the challenge of a PhD on “The Cherokee Nation in the 19th century: racial tensions and the loss of tribal sovereignty”.

Under the guidance of his supervisor, mentor and now close friend, Associate Professor Greg Tobin of the School of International Studies, Dr Essery has dedicated much of his “spare time” over the past decade on researching the historical significance of the Cherokee Indians, one of the largest of the five native American tribes.

“English and history were my two best subjects at school back in the 1950s and I’ve also loved reading, especially about history,” he said.

“But I never knew a thing about the American Civil War before this, nor the significant role the Cherokees played.”

A former well-known rugby union referee and Sunday Mail rugby sports columnist, Dr Essery is also well known to many former CBD workers after eight years of running the news kiosk near the GPO on King William St from the late 1980s.

He said that while being a “mature-age” student was naturally a different experience from that of younger generations with a career ahead of them, it was rewarding to achieve academically at any age.

“I am now enthusiastically recommending to both my social club and bowls club that they would benefit by taking up their quills and duplicating my experience,” he said.

Some 1680 completing Flinders University students have received their degrees at eight graduation ceremonies this week at the University’s Bedford Park campus.

With his doctorate in hand, Dr Essery now plans to use his research study to write journal articles on the subject.

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