The 82-year-old doctoral student at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences will soon be able to wear a doctoral hat

At 7:20 a.m., the old man Yu Fengyuan woke up from sleep on time, washed simply, and sat at his desk. I saw that he slowly took out a copy of “English Vocabulary for Graduate School Entrance Examination” from the bookshelf, turned a page in the corner, “This morning’s task is to learn the application of ten English sentence patterns”, he skillfully put on reading glasses as he spoke, and then opened the morning reading time. The morning sun shone on the old man’s silver hair, his hands were wrinkled like crumpled paper, and he trembled slightly from time to time, but he still held the pencil and sketched on the book, and from time to time a few key words “popped” out of his mouth. The old man said that he had insisted on reading in the morning for many years.

Yu Fengyuan is 82 years old this year, and since his retirement, he has had the idea of going to school. He has obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer science and technology from Beijing Open University, a master’s degree in library science from the Department of Information Management of Peking University, and is completing a doctoral program in developmental and educational psychology at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“You only need to take an English test and defense to wear a doctoral hat.” The old man said, revealing his eyes full of expectation.

“Master brother” in the eyes of classmates

In 2013, an elderly man with gray hair appeared in front of the admissions office of Beijing Open University and said he wanted to sign up. Recalling the first time I met Yu Fengyuan, Zeng Ying, an admissions teacher at the school, said: “At first, I thought he wanted to enroll in the school’s non-degree courses for the elderly, but he didn’t expect him to clearly say that he wanted to study computer science undergraduate. She introduced that the school’s academic education needs to pass the entrance qualification examination and level test, and complete credits within the specified academic system to be allowed to graduate and obtain academic certificates.

Yu Fengyuan chose a relatively difficult learning path, “There is no special reason, but I studied electrical majors when I was young, and I want to learn more professional knowledge when I am old.” In this way, he successfully passed the admission examination and test, and officially became an undergraduate student majoring in computer science and technology in the direct college of the university.

Face-to-face classes are scheduled for weekends, and the journey from home to school has become a big problem for the nearly octogenarian. “My son often drives me to school, and sometimes I take a taxi to and from school by myself.” The old man recalled that one winter, when the north wind was blowing, he could not stop the car while standing on the side of the street, “fortunately, a lesbian kindly helped me call a taxi with my mobile phone”, he said, “Although the weather is cold, people’s hearts are warm.”

Even so, no matter the summer, summer or winter, the old man can always be the first to arrive in the classroom and wipe the blackboard clean in advance. “The classmates I take in class are either office workers or young parents, they are always in a hurry, and I do more when I can.” He said lightly.

The classroom is not large, and the last row is Yu Fengyuan’s exclusive seat, “I feel uncomfortable sitting in the front, and I am a little embarrassed.” The old man said that he used to listen to the lecture with his ears instead of looking at the board book on the blackboard, “I occasionally write and draw on the book, but more to lift the spirit through the action of writing.” ”

In the eyes of his classmates, Yu Fengyuan has clear thinking and knowledge, and everyone affectionately calls him “master brother”. Although he is the oldest student in his class, he is not outdated in his thinking, and he has knowledge in psychology, history, chemistry, physics, biology and other fields. The school’s teachers, Liu Yuxiang and Zhang Wanping, who served as his class teachers, said that Yu Fengyuan was very talkative, often discussing his recent study plans with teachers at the end of class, and sharing information on WeChat about the latest health knowledge, cutting-edge scientific and technological achievements, and activity lectures.

A thesis completed in a hospital bed

As the course progressed, Yu Fengyuan successfully passed several exams, one step away from graduation. However, a “data structures” course became a mountain “horizontally” in front of him. The course mainly examines students’ mastery and application of high-level computer languages, “There are many professional languages such as grammatical structures, functions and operator signs that need to be memorized,” he frowned, showing a sad face, “I took this course four or five times, but I can’t get by.” ”

In order to “stumble” with this course, Yu Fengyuan specially collected the papers he had taken before, transcribed the wrong questions and pondered them repeatedly. He pulled out a notebook from a thick stack of books, which was full of densely packed formulas, the pages were a little wrinkled and yellow, and the corners of the pages were also ground out of round raw edges, which showed that they had been repeatedly flipped through many times.

However, on the eve of the make-up exam, a sudden illness broke Yu Fengyuan’s study life. In November 2019, he was admitted to the hospital for sudden acute cerebral infarction, and doctors diagnosed his sequelae as paralysis. “I had to postpone exams and graduation.” Yu Fengyuan recalled this change and showed a trace of regret. But even so, from his hospital bed, he still remembered his exam.

In a WeChat message to the head teacher, he wrote: “I am being hospitalized for acute cerebral infarction, and I hope to apply for a postponement of the exam or graduate using other assessment methods. Although the MRI diagnosed me with paralysis, I could still write with a pen in my right hand, but I had limited mobility and could not answer the questions for a limited time. I applied to write a data structure report paper by myself, and I hope that the teacher will handle it according to the usual lectures, homework and past examination results. ”

The class teacher was deeply impressed by his perseverance and sincerity, and after discussing and consulting with the Academic Affairs Office and other relevant departments, he agreed to let him complete the assessment of “Data Structure” in the form of a report paper. After being discharged from the hospital, Yu Fengyuan devoted himself to the writing of the report while undergoing rehabilitation treatment. “Since I got sick, my health has not been as good as before, I started to get dizzy after reading a book, and my hands and eyes began to disobey.” He said, shaking his head.

Due to the sequelae of cerebral infarction, his hand holding the pen always trembled slightly uncontrollably, and he began to feel numb without writing a few words, and could only write for a while to rest. Nevertheless, he insisted on expressing his understanding of “data structures” in the simplest words and the most sincere brushstrokes. The 2,000-word thesis was written by Yu Fengyuan for nearly a month.

On December 16, 2020, 81-year-old Yu Fengyuan received his long-awaited undergraduate diploma from Wang Xiangnian, vice president of Beijing Open University. In the photo, Yu Fengyuan is holding a bouquet of flowers in his left hand and holding his graduation certificate in his right hand, with a proud smile on his face.

“I still want to do postdocs”

As for why he can keep learning, Yu Fengyuan said: “I don’t have a clear answer, maybe it’s because of love. According to his recollection, the experience of participating in mathematics competitions and winning awards in high school taught him how to use mathematical thinking to observe the logical relationship between things, solve complex problems with simple ideas, and taste the fruits of hard work. Out of his love for learning, he has persisted in reading to this day.

Walking into Yu Fengyuan’s home, there are almost no wardrobes, sofas, closets and other objects, except for simple daily necessities, the collection of books covers the entire residence. Books of different types and sizes were neatly stacked on the shelves, and even the beds were piled up. “Reading is not only my habit, but also a spiritual sustenance,” he says, gently brushing his fingers over the books on the shelves, his eyes full of love. In Yu Fengyuan’s opinion, reading keeps him curious and full of energy.

Next to the bookshelf is a folding ladder to reach the books at the top of the shelf. Yu Fengyuan recalled that once he climbed the ladder alone to retrieve a book, the book suddenly slipped from his hand, and he also accidentally fell from the ladder to the ground, causing a wrist fracture. “At that time, my mind didn’t turn, I just wanted to grab the book, but I forgot to step on the ladder.” Holding his injured wrist, he lamented that the accident had made his writing slower, “but I still have the habit of recording the useful words in the book.”

Yu Fengyuan took out a miscellaneous notebook, which wrote the knowledge and experience he gained from the book, and he pointed to the sentence on the book and explained: “Do things when you are awake, read when you are confused”, always reminding him of the importance of reading; “In fact, there is no road on the earth, and when there are more people walking, it becomes a road”, is the philosophy that Lu Xun taught him to explore and practice; “Astragalus can replenish qi and refresh his mind”, so that he developed the habit of soaking water with astragalus every morning… Behind every sentence is a book, a story.

The small table next to the bookshelf is where Yu Fengyuan reads every day, and two rows of books are neatly stacked on the windowsill in front. “Actually, this table is made up of a sewing machine and a wooden board,” he smiled, pointing to the wooden board of about one square meter, saying that he was very frugal in life, the TV at home was still in the old box, and the temples of reading glasses were wrapped in tape and round. “But I’m not stingy about buying books.” He said that he has to buy at least 10 new books a month, “so there must be at least more than 5,000 books at home.”

Last year, the old man who lives in a sea of books and “loves books as much as his life” decided to donate books to his alma mater, Beijing Open University, including five volumes of mathematics, physics, chemistry, geoscience and biology in the “Dictionary of Natural Sciences” series, and eleven volumes of “Heavenly Evolution” on the theory of “natural selection and survival of the fittest”. He hopes to inspire teachers and students to love reading through his modest strength, and at the same time express his gratitude to his alma mater. Today, more than ten books have successfully entered the reading room of Beijing Open University, waiting for teachers and students to read them.

Yu Fengyuan said: “If I can, I would like to study as a postdoc. He is a model of lifelong learning, and this “live to learn” spirit will inspire everyone who reads his story.