York University Just Had Their Oldest Master's Graduate & She Loved Being A Student At 87

Varatha Shanmuganathan is a Sri Lankan Tamil immigrant who moved to Canada in '04.

Toronto Associate Editor
York University Just Had Their Oldest Master's Graduate & She Loved Being A Student At 87
Courtesy of Varatha Shanmuganathan/Gloria Suhasini, @yorkuniversity | Instagram

York University could very well appear in another episode of Jeopardy! after the history that was just made on its campus this week.

York University announced that Varatha Shanmuganathan, an 87-year-old Vaughan resident originally from Sri Lanka, just became the oldest person to get her master's degree at their school. She attended York U's virtual convocation on November 2 with 4,000 other students, too.

Shanmuganathan was accepted into York U's political science master's program back in 2019, where she told her alma mater that she loved going on campus and doing all of the things the "youngsters" were doing at school, too.

"Every time I was on campus, it felt like I was in a temple," Shanmuganathan said. "Very peaceful and rejuvenating."

This isn't the first master's degree for Shanmuganathan, either. She finished her first master's degree from the University of London's Birkbeck College when she was in her fifties.

Both of Shanmuganathan's degrees focused on her Sri Lankan roots. Her first master's degree delved into "the attitudes of Sri Lankan Tamils in England towards language" while her York degree explored "non-violence for national peacebuilding and reconciliation in Sri Lanka."

Shanmuganathan also had a powerful message for young students.

"I will tell them — the younger generation — do your degrees not just for career's sake, it should be something that should be life-changing," the double master's graduate said in the Twitter video. "You should think not about yourself all the time, but think of your country, think of the world, think of all the issues that are being discussed in this world."

Shanmuganathan will also go down in national history as one of the oldest women to receive a graduate degree from a Canadian university.

Even though she's all done with school now, Shanmuganathan has big plans for her future because she plans on writing a book.

"Anything I start, I will finish," Shanmuganathan said. "Always."

Alex Arsenych
Toronto Associate Editor
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