You go girl! UKZN's oldest graduate bags PhD aged 71

By Karinda Jagmohan Time of article published Apr 24, 2018

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DURBAN - Graduating at 71-years-old is just another step forward for an American-born psychologist’s dream of helping the physically disabled overcome negative stereotypes.

Dr Elizabeth Martiny may be the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s oldest graduate this year, but the Joburg woman is still young at heart.

Martiny graduated with a PhD in Religion and Theology.

Born in western New York, Martiny moved to South Africa in 1995 to study Carl Jung psychology with a group of South Africans.

“I only meant to stay for five years, but here we are! South Africa is one of my own,” she said.

She now runs a private psychology practice in Johannesburg. Martiny contracted polio as her child and is physically disabled.

Her PhD research explored the challenges of physically disabled women from the perspectives of theology and analytical psychology.

She also investigated the images of God.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) oldest graduate this year, Dr Elizabeth Martiny, was hooded by UKZN Registrar, Mr Simon Mokoena, at a University graduation ceremony held at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg this afternoon. Picture: Thuli Dlamini

“My research was about putting the strands of my life together,” she said, emphasising the importance of both spirituality and feminism in her life.

Martiny felt there was a need to challenge misleading ideas and the stigma around disability in society, through faith communities.


Moving forward, she hoped her research would be instrumental in breaking down negative stereotypical attitudes and behaviours toward people with disabilities.


“This has been a test of perseverance and patience but most importantly it was meaningful learning about myself and giving voice to those who have not had an opportunity to be heard “Dreams can emerge at all stages of life and this dream has become a reality for me,” she said.

In 2009, the oldest UKZN graduate was 73-year-old Valerie Leigh, who graduated with a PhD in Art History.

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Oldest graduate shares his secret


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