Long time coming

Woman writes 400-page thesis by hand to earn doctorate at 90

Colette Bourlier (© Ludovic Godard - UFC)

At 90 years old, Colette Bourlier became one of France’s oldest people to be awarded a doctorate in geography from Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon, The New York Times reported. She first started studying immigrant workers in eastern France 30 years ago, after retiring from the teaching profession in 1983 and received “high distinction” for her thesis, which was 400 pages long and written by hand, according to her adviser and vice president of the University, Serge Ormaux. Bourlier, who is going deaf, spent two hours explaining her work to an academic jury, who sat close so their questions could be heard. “It took me a while because I took some breaks,” she told the Times. “I did the best that I could. I received much encouragement from my advisers, and I think the jury was satisfied. I am very moved.”

Ormaux called Bourlier’s paper on migrants traveling from Algeria, Italy and Portugal to eastern France in the 1970s “relevant work” for its relation to today’s European migration crisis. Bourlier, who said she now plans to “relax” because she’s old, spent decades meeting with the migrant women whom she studied.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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