December 15, 2023

Australia’s Avondale University Awards Doctoral Degree to Its Oldest Graduate

At 84, Don Roy received a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree for a second time.

Brenton Stacey, Adventist Record, and Adventist Review
Doctor of Philosophy graduate Don Roy is, at 84 years of age, the oldest person to receive the degree at Avondale University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution in Australia. [Photo: Brenton Stacey]

An adjunct senior lecturer at Avondale University became the oldest person to complete doctoral study at the Seventh-day Adventist institution in Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia, when he graduated on December 10.

Don Roy received a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree for a second time. “I’ve always been a curious person, and I’m not content unless I’ve got answers,” he said. “I don’t always expect to find answers because, as the adage goes, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. But writing the thesis has created conversation, which has clarified my thinking and the thinking of others.”

He shared that he adopted a critical-realist approach to exploring the changing mission of Seventh-day Adventist education in Australia over the past 55 years, “a period where I’ve been involved as a teacher, an academic [as a former head of school at Avondale] and an administrator.” Roy’s thesis supports a definition of mission not as what Adventist education does but why it does what it does — its motivation, its commitment. “My research also asks questions about how we can better engage with a population in our schools that is predominantly non-Adventist, even unchurched.”

The awarding of Roy’s degree came a day before his 84th birthday.

Joining him as PhD graduates are Linda Cloete and Vladka Henley. Cloete, a lecturer in the School of Nursing and Health, used a multi-method approach to evaluate the possibility of reversing type 2 diabetes mellitus in patients and assess their experience of doing so. Henley, a high school teacher, explored the factors influencing parents when choosing an Australian faith-based school for their children.

Roy, Cloete, and Henley are three of the 243 students who were eligible to march during the ceremonies in Avondale University Church on December 10. Almost half the graduating class members are undergraduate nurses, who, according to a government-endorsed national survey, rank their course number one in Australia across all categories.

In a new graduation tradition, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students who earn the highest grade-point average from their school received the University Medal during the ceremonies. Recipients this year are: Brock Goodall and Isobel Plewright (School of Arts and Business); Katie Askin and David Lu (School of Ministry and Theology); Melinda Crevar and Rachael Curnuck (School of Education and Science); and Andrea Kross and Bryn McIlwain (School of Nursing and Health).

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape attended a worship service with the graduates during the valedictory service on December 9. In a brief devotional and motivational message, Marape, a Seventh-day Adventist, told the class members, “You’re painting your life story on a canvas.” “Paint it well,” he added, because every part of the story is a foundation for another. “You are creating something for eternity.”

The graduation class motto, “Wherever you go,” comes from a verse in the Bible book of Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). This is a reassuring promise at a time when change and uncertainty are the new normal, wrote university vice-chancellor and president Kerri-Lee Krause in her graduation message. With COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing, and pivots to online learning demanding “resilience, determination and grit,” Krause said she is “so proud of the personal, academic, and spiritual growth” of graduands. “May God continue to give you a greater vision of world needs,” she wrote, and “the courage to live that vision.”

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.