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Graduation for Canada’s oldest university student

The Story

It is graduation day for the University of Toronto's oldest student, Selma Plaut. On June 11, 1990, the 100-year-old great-grandmother receives an honorary degree alongside much younger graduates. Plaut first enrolled in university classes at age 88, taking courses in theology, history and French over the next 12 years. Plaut's motivation for hitting the books was so she could remain "active in many things," as heard in the TV report.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: June 11, 1990
Guest(s): Selma Plaut
Reporter: Bill Harrington
Duration: 1:40

Did You know?

• Selma Plaut was one of 13 children born to a merchant family in Muenster, Germany. She married her husband, Jonas, in 1911 when Kaiser Wilhelm II still ruled Germany. They fled from the Nazis and moved to North America at the end of the Second World War.

• Plaut had two sons, both rabbis. One of her sons, Rabbi Gunther Plaut is a prominent author and scholar of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Plaut was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1978. He was promoted to companion in 1999.

• A friend recommended that Selma Plaut take classes when she complained that didn't feel satisfied in her daily life. Plaut told the Toronto Star that she wanted to find a "new world of thinking apart from the day to day ordinary thinking." (Toronto Star, Jan. 18, 1987)

• Plaut's professors described her as being "a delightful and inspiring example." They said older students like Plaut benefit the class because they aren't intimated by the professors and aren't afraid to ask questions.

• Plaut died in March 1993 of pneumonia, few weeks short of her 103rd birthday.


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