Life
Senior with dyslexia “proves them all wrong” and graduates university with 5 writing majors
'Despite dyslexia & a debilitating accident, he graduated on June 15 after many years in the UVic Writing department — becoming the only student to complete all 5 genres for his degree (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting & screenwriting)."
Luis Gaskell
06.24.22

Graduating is always a big milestone, and it’s even bigger when you’ve waited several more decades for it. Some people just don’t get the same clean, easy paths that everyone else gets.

In fact, the long journey to a milestone is just as important as the destination.

So let’s hear the story of Jim Johnston, a 74-year-old dyslexic who just graduated college.

Pexels - Jessica Lewis Creative
Source:
Pexels - Jessica Lewis Creative

The road to success was very bumpy for Johnston. Growing up, he always knew something was different about him. He just didn’t know what exactly that was, until quite a bit later in life.

Though of all the things different about him, his left-handedness was the first thing to be acknowledged.

Pexels - Dids
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Pexels - Dids

Johnston being left-handed seemed like an eccentricity to those around him.

“The first day I went to school I was left-handed and I was going on the swings, I come off and Mrs. Clark grabbed me and said you’ve been cursed by the devil, I’m going to drive the devil out of you and make you right-handed.” – he told

It was after an accident in 1998 that he was assessed by WBC.

Their verdict was that Johnston wouldn’t make it very far.

“I had an accident in 1998 and WCB sent me into assessment and they said I had grade four reading and writing skills.” – said Johnston

That’s a pretty harsh thing to tell someone, and I’m sure Johnston thought the same.

Pexels - Andrea Piacquadio
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Pexels - Andrea Piacquadio

Not being one to sit and accept their (quite wrong) assessment, Johnston proved himself with a test.

“They gave me a test for creativity and I got 100 percent on it, so the system at Camosun College figured I cheated, so they gave me one for university graduates, I got 100 percent on that.”

“Society, all my life has put me in a box. So, I proved them wrong.”

In 2010, Johnston suffered a more serious accident at the hands of a drunk driver.

Pexels - energepic.com
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Pexels - energepic.com

The encounter left him with a brain injury, seemingly setting him back even more.

But we’ve already seen how persistent and capable Johnston is.

A brain injury might slow him down, but it won’t stop him.

He enrolled at the University of Victoria and recently graduated.

Pexels - Ekrulila
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Pexels - Ekrulila

He walked up to the stadium with his college mates and got to say “I did it”.

What he accomplished at uni was no small feat too. Johnston has five writing majors to his name, one for each genre.

Those would be fiction, non-fiction, screen, playwriting, and movie. Remember when they told him he had the reading and writing ability of a fourth grader? Guess who’s laughing now.

Pexels - Donatello Trisolino
Source:
Pexels - Donatello Trisolino

Based on some of his words, he should try writing some comedy plays.

“I’m the type of writer where I have to be happy and I’m a happy person. Sometimes I laugh so hard my renters come down, I fell out of my seat and they wanted to see if I was alright but I was just laughing at my own jokes.”

Facebook screenshot - University of Victoria, Faculty of Fine Arts
Source:
Facebook screenshot - University of Victoria, Faculty of Fine Arts

So he’s got quite the mark to leave on the world after college.

At 74, he proves that it’s never too late. Even with all the disadvantages he had.

Pexels - Emily Ranquist
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Pexels - Emily Ranquist

And with a fair number of people who struggle to enter or complete their education, I’m sure his journey resonates with a lot of us.

See the university’s original Twitter post below!

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Luis Gaskell
hi@sbly.com
Luis Gaskell is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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