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OU graduation stories: ‘The most extraordinary moment of my life’

Here we tell the incredible story of John Spence from Cardiff who has recently achieved his dream of gaining a BSc Honours degree, thanks to the OU.

John has disabilities and severe dyslexia, and says he was mocked at school by his peers and told he would “amount to nothing” and “did not deserve to be taught with others”. He left school and joined the armed forces seeing active service in Iraq and Afghanistan and subsequently worked as an ocean paramedic.

The OU ‘rebuilt me and gave me my confidence back’

As a result of studying with the OU, John is now a lead medical officer on-board a ship, undertaking sea rescues, travelling worldwide and supporting over 150 people medically. He has led an extraordinary life – full of adventure and bravery. However it is his personal battle to overcome his previous educational experience, his dyslexia and other conditions, that are the most inspiring. John said:

When I was down and struggling, my lecturers and support staff reached out to me and told me that I can do this, that I was just as intelligent, which at once lifted my destroyed spirit to continue. I thank them for rebuilding me and giving me the education and my confidence back that no teacher in school said I was going to have.

‘This is so important to me’

At his graduation in London, John was shaking so much that he was unable to walk across the stage to collect his degree, so OU Vice-Chancellor, Peter Horrocks, approached him and asked him if he would like some help. John replied that he was OK but was simply overcome with the emotion of the event.  He whispered to Peter:

This is just the most extraordinary moment of my life. I was told when I was 16, some 30 years ago, that I would never achieve anything educationally. This is so important to me.

This story has been adapted from an article authored by Michelle Matheron, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the OU in Wales. To read the full story please go to the news page on the OU in Wales website.

About Author

Rebecca works in the Media Relations team at The Open University. She has a wide range of experience including teaching English as a foreign language, working as a museum and gallery curator and doing media relations for food and drink producers. She has a degree in History of Art and Philosophy from the University of Birmingham and a Masters from City University London. Rebecca specialises in stories from the OU's Faculty of Business and Law, the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education, and Language Studies. She also works on publicity for the OU's activities on degree apprenticeships. One of the loves of her life is her little jack russell.

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