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84 year old alumnus pedals his way through #NCL5K

Alumnus, Derek Duchemin, 84 years old but still rearing to go, took part in our international #NCL5K as part of Newcastle University Alumni Weekend. Read Derek’s story.

Alumni from all over the world ran, figure skated, pedalled, walked…(the list goes on) their #NCL5K. We asked them to share their images and videos on social media. They were great! We had to share Derek’s story. Derek completed his 5K aboard a ship on the way to Bordeaux on an exercise bike! We of course had to find out a little more about Derek and his amazing history of achievements, fruitful education and career. Read his mini blog below:

Following an undistinguished grammar school education I left school at 16 and started work in a bank. After two years National Service in the army and return to banking I went back to square one and determined I wanted to go to university. While studying at evening classes to get the necessary O and A levels which they were called back in the day, I was attracted to the work of a Probation Officer. The Home Office suggested I apply for a two year certified course in Social Studies, and if accepted they would consider financial sponsorship. This course was offered at Durham University, Kings College, Newcastle upon Tyne (the predecessor of Newcastle University) and I was fortunate enough to be accepted on the course. By this time, 1960, I was married and a mature student of 24 years.

The course included a number of diverse subjects such as Psychology, Politics, Economics and Ethics as well as Criminal Law and I found it both demanding and stimulating. What I enjoyed particularly was the library, then new, and the luxury of studying in peaceful surroundings. Being a married student I lived out, in a small flat near the football ground and in a friendly community. Newcastle was a vibrant city, still with industrial links and I enjoyed the geographical closeness of the town and the University campus.

On the sporting side I loved playing rugby having converted to the game during National Service and with fixtures on both Wednesdays and Saturdays, played for both Kings College and the Durham University first XV.

After completing the course certification I needed, I spent another year on the Home Office course for probation before being appointed a Probation Officer in 1963. I had felt disappointed that the Home Office had not sponsored students for the degree course but in 1966 I took a year off to return to Newcastle University, where I was allowed to complete my BA degree. Naturally, I continued to play rugby for the first team during that year including the match against Durham University which Newcastle won.

I had a fulfilling and challenging career working in probation, in 1970 I joined the Home Office Probation Inspectorate and, in due course, was Tutor in charge of their course in London for some years before retiring in 1990 as Deputy Chief Inspector. This early retirement allowed me the chance to return to study and I read Spanish and Latin American Studies for another BA from Goldsmiths College, London University in 1998.

My diverse sporting interests continued and I ran in the first London Marathon in 1981 but I now enjoy a quiet retirement and continue to maintain links with my old Universities of Newcastle and Durham, for whom I am eternally grateful for taking me on as a student so many years ago. So my advice to young people is to take your opportunities when they arise and don’t be afraid to chance your arm.

It was a delight to be able to participate in the Newcastle University Alumni Weekend 5K event on board a ship on a gym bicycle, had I been home I would have joined the local Park Run which I started doing in January this year. It was great fun!

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Derek Duchemin
Alumnus, Derek Duchemin

published on: 12 November 2019