Fifty years' work pays off with the doff of a hat

5 OCTOBER 2000

It has taken Elaine Dunn half a century to get the much-desired letters she wants after her name, and now at 71 she's sizing up the prospect of continuing on to a Masters degree as well.

It has taken Elaine Dunn half a century to get the much-desired letters she wants after her name, and now at 71 she's sizing up the prospect of continuing on to a Masters degree as well.

The Bachelor of Arts degree she is collecting tomorrow is quite an achievement in itself for someone who has never been to school. Not as a student anyway.

When the then Elaine Graham started her studies in 1950 at the Wagga Wagga Teachers' College, it was her first experience of formal schooling. She had grown up some 25 miles west of Wagga and had done all of her primary and secondary education by correspondence.

"The closest school was about six miles away and I had no hope of getting there - that was quite a distance then," Mrs Dunn said.

When she finally made it to town she enrolled at the college a week late, because the river was flooded and she couldn't get across, and at the end of her two-year certificate course she was sent home early when a polio scare closed the facilities.

Despite the dramas and setbacks, she went on to enjoy a long and successful primary teaching career, including returning to lecture at the teachers' college, and being one of the first women in the State to be promoted from an Infants Mistress to a school Principal.

"I'm quite proud of the fact that I was one of the first women to break that barrier into the male teaching domain… but it always bothered me that I never got to do the degree," Mrs Dunn said.

"I was accepted to study at Sydney University back in the '50s, but I just couldn't get there then. I was married and had two children… I just kept putting it on the backburner, and then after I retired I said: 'Right! I'm doing it now', so I did.

"I've still got the Masters in my sights, and it's just a matter of finances now. But the main thing is I've done what I aimed to do."

Mrs Dunn returned to Wagga from Kiama today, accompanied by her daughters Maxine and Marion and husband Alfred, set to claim her award from CSU Chancellor David Asimus tomorrow.

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Wagga Wagga Charles Sturt University