A retired aircraft engineer has proved you’re never too old to learn – by going to university at the age of 88.
Widower Bill Hart, of Bingley, is Leeds Trinity University’s oldest student.
He is now in his second year of a foundation degree in Professional Coaching of Lishi Movement – a meditative style of exercise.
The 3,000-year-old Chinese discipline involves movement and dance as well as the development of breathing skills and good posture and alignment.
The course is physical, requiring regular training each week as well as research, reading and essay-writing.
Mr Hart said: “The best thing about the course is the research and reading. I’ve always read, but the degree gives me a purpose to actively research.
“Although it’s challenging, studying and practising Lishi has definitely kept me more active, and I particularly love studying it at Leeds Trinity University. It’s a lovely campus with a welcoming community.”
Mr Hart said his passion for Chinese culture began when he was just seven, when his grandmother showed him a photograph of the Great Wall of China.
He was further inspired when he first watched the 1937 film Lost Horizon, an adaptation of the James Hilton novel best known for its fictional utopia Shangri-la.
Mr Hart served in the Royal Navy during the war, then started civilian life as a labourer. He then became a chartered engineer and rose up through the ranks in a career in aircraft electrical engineering, which included working on Concorde.
Thoughout his career, Mr Hart visited China twice a year as part of ‘The 48 Group’, an independent business network which was among the first to promote business links with the country.
Mr Hart also used to practise yoga, and after his wife died in 2007, he decided to try and take it up again.
But he found the stretches too challenging, so decided he would try and find something more like Tai Chi.
Mr Hart has been practising Lishi ever since, and spends six hours a week in training. When Leeds Trinity University began its foundation degree in the discipline, he was personally invited onto the course by Lishi’s chief coach.
Programme leader Dr Ian Kenvyn said: “Bill has been a delight to work with. Having mature students like Bill in our students’ cohort adds a sense of depth and focus that very much enriches the whole university experience and highlights that education is a life-long process that cannot be restricted to our teens and twenty-somethings.”