Graduating in the family

Four members of one extended family who are graduating from Victoria University of Wellington this week are using the occasion to pay a special tribute to their grandmother and great grandmother.

Austin and Dale family graduation
From left: Charlotte Austin, Rosalind Austin holding a photo of her grandmother, Ashleigh Dale and Joshua Dale. Credit: Jo Moore Photographer

Rosalind Austin is graduating with her Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, while her daughter Charlotte Austin is getting her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws with Honours, her niece Ashleigh Dale will receive her Bachelor of Commerce with Honours, and her nephew Joshua Dale, Ashleigh’s brother, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts.

Joshua will wear a hood belonging to his great grandmother, Ella Fowler, who graduated from what was then the University of New Zealand with a BA in botany in 1926. In family photos taken ahead of the ceremonies, they made sure to include a treasured family photo of Ella in her graduation robes, as well as her framed degree that usually hangs on a wall in Rosalind’s Palmerston North home.

Rosalind says she was close to her grandmother, who died in 1986, and it meant a lot to wear the hood when she graduated with her own BA. Ella, who attended what was then Auckland University College, did her degree part-time and taught in both primary and secondary schools.

Rosalind says it was fortuitous that the four family members were able to graduate in the same week, as they each completed their degrees at different times.

Rosalind did her Master’s by distance over a number of years, while also working and doing volunteer work teaching English.

“I’ve been teaching English as a second language for 30 years but I did my Master’s because I wanted that professional development. It was so good—really helpful with practical assignments.”

Before embarking on more university study, she spent a year improving her computer skills and she also battled ill health during her studies.

“I am over the moon that I finally got there,” she says.