Phil Devitt with her daughters Marie Kennedy and Denise Evans, after she received a BA in Community Studies at a conferring ceremony at Maynooth University last Wednesday.

‘Age only a number’... Octogenarian Phil graduates from Maynooth

Former Drumree resident Phil Devitt is Maynooth University's oldest graduate this year, and at age 86 one of the oldest ever graduates in Ireland.

Phil, who lived at Miller's Crossing at Clavinstown, where family members still live, was awarded a BA in Community Studies at an event in the TSI Building on North Campus.

Co-founder, with her late husband, Mike, of the Newlands Gardening Centre in Clondalkin, she pursued a return to learning course at Maynooth University some years ago, and later opted for a degree course committing to four years of study.

“Sadly Mike passed away in July 2017 and my life took a different path. I was living alone, and decided to go to Maynooth to meet new friends and get out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“From my studies, I met great lecturers and made wonderful friends. I did classes at night and the other students were great and walked me to and from my car on dark evenings. They were extremely kind and I enjoyed every moment.”

Her studies kept her mind occupied and focused, particularly during Covid, she added.

“If there’s a little message to anyone it’s that every day you can learn something, and age is only a number,” Phil, who is formerly Phil Nugent from close to Lisclogher, between Athboy and Delvin, said.

Maynooth University President, Professor Eeva Leinonen paid tribute to Phil on receiving her BA in Community Studies, and congratulated all graduates conferred this week as they embark on their new journey.

“Phil is a true inspiration in showing us the way forward by embracing the challenges and rewards of lifelong learning and education,” Professor Leinonen said.

Attending the conferring ceremony on Wednesday were Phil’s daughters Marie Kennedy and Denise Evans, son Tomás and other family members including grandchildren.

Describing her mother as kind to everyone, Marie described her mother’s example as an inspiration, spurring her grandson’s return to university to study engineering as a mature student.

“She didn’t have an opportunity to go to college when she was a young person and she was adamant that her children would,” Marie said.

Over three days, some 2,028 undergraduates were awarded parchments, along with 226 receiving master’s degrees, 73 diplomas, and 30 doctorates.