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Photo courtesy of Johnny Guatto/The University of Toronto.
By Josh Scott
Meet Clive Davies, a 79-year-old former police officer and New Tecumseth resident who graduated this past June 10 from The University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in History. The oldest graduate this year by far, he has 59 years at hand on the youngest and completes his journey after taking what he jokingly refers to as a “25-year sabbatical” (he first began his studies at U of T part-time in 1978).
Born in Northern England before the Second World War, Davies spent a portion of his childhood in Venezuela and part of his teens on a plantation in Barbados. In the 1950s, he enlisted and served in the Malayan Emergency in Singapore with the British Royal Air Force. He later moved back to England and worked for four years as a London police officer (or “bobby”) before moving to Canada in 1964.
Davies was with the Toronto Metro Police from 1967 to 1994, where he began on a beat. His duties ranged from administrative to court-related to work with the emergency task force—as the supervisor of a special weapons SWAT team.
In the early ‘70s, he served as the president of the Toronto Rugby Union. He was a latecomer who started playing at 32 and stopped at 49.
Prior to his time with the police, Davies worked as a private investigator for The Pinkerton National Detective Agency and, for a short while, even drove a taxi. He moved to the Tottenham area in 1981.
His academic career began later than most – at the age of 40. Since he had never finished high school, he entered U of T through a pre-university program. As a student the first time around, he amassed 11 credits while splitting his time between school and the Metropolitan Toronto Police; sometimes after work, he would even come to class in uniform.
To say the least, Davies was active on campus. Intent on “expanding his university experience,” he began as a class rep and worked his way up. He went on to serve as the vice-president of the Association for Part-Time Undergraduates for four years and finally, as the president of the Woodsworth College Student's Association (WCSA) and remembers his time at the latter quite fondly.
Ultimately, Davies laments, balancing shift work and classes proved “impossible.” Though he regrets having to choose policing over school, he “never had any real doubt” that he would eventually return to complete his degree. For him, it was just a matter of timing.
When he began, Davies's focus was on Spanish history. Now he finds himself more drawn to Eastern Europe. That being said, he admits that there are still many courses he regrets not having the time to take. Looking back, he wishes he were able to approach is the Balkans as an area of study.
As a mature student, he particularly enjoyed interacting with his professors, who were often quite younger than him. His age and life experience lent him not only a unique perspective but also a certain authority – he had “lived through” many of the events talked about in class. He found that because of this, his professors often took a greater interest in what he had to say.
Much about U of T has changed since Davies's first time around. When he took a third year history course with Professor Bill Callaghan in the late 1970s, it consisted of “six or seven people” who'd meet for three hours once a week in Callaghan's office – a cozy arrangement, aside from the fact that Callaghan spent most of the time smoking cigars. As Davies recalls with a grin, “if you showed up and could stand the smell, you'd end up with a decent mark.”
According to Davies, the biggest change has been in the technology. He prefers to take his notes by felt-tip pen (he finds laptops in lecture distracting) though he does admit to using his cell phone to snap the occasional picture of the board or lengthy PowerPoint slides.
On the one hand, he acknowledges the convenience of the Internet: having access, at your fingertips, to what you once had to scour the library stacks to find. On the other, he professes an almost romantic appreciation for taking the trip to the library anyway, on the chance that he'd find something he wasn't looking for.
Initially, Davies only wanted to do his BA; he credits his friends for encouraging him to go one step further and earn an honours BA. He is the first of his family to receive a post-secondary degree, fulfilling what he proudly pronounces as a “lifelong dream.”
In his home, he has his hands full with a litter of Standard Schnauzer puppies – a challenge that surely seems easy in comparison.
Excerpt: Meet Clive Davies, a 79-year-old former police officer and New Tecumseth resident who graduated this past June 10 from The University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in History. The oldest graduate this year by far, he has 59 years at hand on the youngest and completes his journey after taking what he jokingly refers to as a “25-year sabbatical” (he first began his studies at U of T part-time in 1978).
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