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At 88, triple degree recipient lives for graduation

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Media and Public Relations, 604.291.3210

May 31, 2004
If university had been a plausible choice for Mabel Dumbrell when she was young her degree status would be many decades old.

Instead, her family is hopeful that at 88, the remarkable triple degree recipient can enjoy her accomplishments for a time following June convocation.

Dumbrell was born in Chilliwack in 1916 and did a brief stint in UBC’s early childhood education program, but the family could not afford for her to continue. She married, had two children and worked with her husband in their bakery until his death in 1966. Fiercely independent, she turned to university after retiring from a secretarial job at Home Oil.

Dumbrell describes herself as an average student, typically the matriarch of the class. She took a wide variety of courses, from her favorites in political science, to history, archaeology, and even Arabic.

She graduates with a pair of bachelor of arts degrees majoring in political science and history. She also earned a bachelor of general studies.

Last fall Dumbrell’s health deteriorated. She is now in a wheelchair and recently moved into a Vancouver nursing home. "Even now, mom wants to continue on and study globalization," says daughter-in-law Maryke Messchaert. "However she is aware of her limitations but tries to keep mentally active by reading and playing cards.

"It’s not easy for her now. We know she is living for convocation.

"But she has done an amazing job. We’re so proud. "To achieve a degree at her age is something. To earn three, that’s amazing. It will be a meaningful celebration for all of us."


Dumbrell is one of a trio of graduates who will celebrate, at spring convocation, the achievement of completing not one degree, but three. The milestone means that Dumbrell, Illeana Oostergo, 70 (Richmond) and George Kaufman, 54 (Burnaby) will be recognized for earning three concurrent degrees in the faculty of arts. Each of the veteran life-long learners accumulated the required credits necessary to complete three academic programs as the result of studies spanning one or even two decades.

A typical bachelor’s degree is earned upon completion of 120 credit hours, 45 of which are upper division credit hours. To earn a second degree, a student would have to complete another 45 upper division credit hours, plus any required lower division courses. The same would apply to a third degree. However if students just keep going instead of graduating after the 120 credits, they could conceivably do two and even three degrees concurrently. All three had a minimum of 210 credit hours.