‘Learning is a lifelong experience’: U of T grad celebrates 80th birthday on his convocation day
Jacques Leduc says it feels extra special to be celebrating two significant milestones on Nov. 6: his 80th birthday and his graduation from the University of Toronto.
Before going back to university, Leduc worked in central and west Africa as an accountant.
He says the experience inspired him to complete a bachelor’s degree with a double major in African studies and near and Middle Eastern civilizations in the Faculty of Arts & Science.
“I learned things that I maybe should have known before,” said Leduc who is a member of New College.
“When you’re working in a career – particularly a career in, let’s say law, accounting or engineering – you’re sort of focused on that particular technical area. Whereas if you do a humanities course, it really broadens your way of thinking.”
He credits the “high level discussions” he had in his classes, the books he was assigned to read and, of course, his professors for opening his eyes to things he might not have realized had he not gone back to university – including a more complete understanding of the deep and lasting harms caused by colonialism in Africa.
“You think about it a bit longer and you realize most of us in Canada are a colonial power,” he says. “It really makes you rethink how people feel.”
The last time Leduc was a student was in the 1960s at the Royal Military College of Canada, which he says was a very different experience. It was a small school – with about 180 students in Leduc’s graduating class (by contrast, more than 21,000 are expected to graduate from U of T in 2023) – and his focus back then was on friends and sports.
After graduating, Leduc worked at an accounting firm and then for the government in the auditor general’s office. As the director of international affairs, he made contacts from across the globe, including organizations in Africa.
When he semi-retired, he took on consulting work in the region, where he became fascinated by the continent.
On his graduation day, Leduc’s wife, daughter and son-in-law will be sitting inside Convocation Hall cheering him on. They plan to celebrate both his convocation and birthday that evening by going out to dinner.
He says that the support of family has been immensely important to him during his four years at U of T.
“I would often be squirreled away in a corner working on my assignments instead of doing things around the house and my wife never complained – she really encouraged me,” he said.
“Any time I had written assignments or essays, she’d always read everything and give me good feedback.”
Leduc wants to continue his education – he has his eye on a master’s degree in African studies.
“Education doesn’t stop when you first graduate,” he says. “Learning is a lifelong experience.”