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Image of Kathleen Fenton

Kathleen Fenton
Bachelor of Arts 2002
For most people retirement is a time for putting their feet up and taking life more slowly - however Deakin Alumni member Kathleen Fenton is not most people.

After 'retiring' from a long career in credit management, Ms Fenton has embarked on a new life journey over the past decade. The 84-year-old has begun a new career in education after completing her Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE ) and graduating in the top 10% of her Arts degree. In addition, as one of Deakin's oldest ever graduates, Ms Fenton was inducted into the Deakin Golden Key National Honour Society.

Originally from Moonee Ponds in Victoria Ms Fenton, like so many in the Depression era, left school at age 14 to work in what she described as 'various unskilled jobs', before joining the Women's Australian Auxiliary Air Force in 1942. Ms Fenton later worked in the credit industry for many years at the same time as raising five children.

As a result, Kate explained that she never had the opportunity to go to university or finish her secondary schooling, and it wasn't until she was encouraged by a Deakin academic to 'give it a go' that she took the plunge in her 70s.

'It was after I retired in 1990, that my life completely changed direction and the last decade or so has become the most fulfilling and satisfying time of my life,' Ms Fenton said.

'I was encouraged by a former VCE tutor to tackle the VCE, which I completed in 1996."

'After my VCE , I was prompted to undertake further studies at university and I enrolled in 1996 at Deakin to study Arts majoring in English Literature and Writing and Linguistics at the age of 72.'

During her tertiary studies, Ms Fenton got the opportunity to work as a campus tutor with the Burwood Student Association and, in the process, discovered that she 'possessed a latent talent for teaching'.

'I enjoyed the tutoring experience so much, that at the conclusion of my studies in 2002, I decided to share my love of literature and my life experiences with young people by becoming a volunteer tutor at the Parkmore and then Burwood Heights Primary Schools,' she explained.

'I still work four hours a week at Burwood Heights and the children certainly help keep me young - this tutoring is my way of giving something back to the community.'

These achievements are all the more remarkable given Ms Fenton's poor health over much of this time, having undergone double heart bypass surgery and waged a constant battle against leukaemia.

Although she concedes that her health issues are proving a challenge, Ms Fenton still manages to keep a positive mindset.

'On the bright side, with a few blood transfusions and some chemotherapy I am still able to continue my teaching - you can't kill the black Irish!' she said determinedly.

As a result of her positive attitude regarding her illness, her academic achievements and volunteer work, Ms Fenton was recently awarded the prestigious Victorian Premier's Senior Achiever Award - an honour that she modestly credits to others.

'The Premiers' Award would not have been granted to me if it was not for what I learnt at Deakin, which changed my entire outlook on life,' she said.

'The friendship and acceptance shown to me by the younger students was heart-warming and I was given the opportunity to study under master writers such as Peter Davis, Arnold Sable and Judith Rodriguez.

'Deakin also paved the way for me to impart my knowledge onto others through introducing me to teaching - the recognition for my minor work is just icing on the cake for me,' she said.

Health permitting, Ms Fenton said that she would like to return to Deakin to complete her Master of Arts soon.


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26th November 2009