Grad Patrick Elo on Crossing the Finish Line

For Patrick Elo, crossing the dais on June 13 is an accomplishment that took almost 50 years. While trying to renew his library privileges at the University of Toronto, he had the realization that despite completing his courses in 2000, he was never granted a diploma.  

Patrick Elo
Patrick Elo

“I had completely forgot about it. I had sort of kept in my mind the idea that I would finish an Honors BA,” Patrick says. 

He checked with St. Michael’s Office of the Registrar, where it was confirmed that he had completed the 15 courses required for a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree, which he will receive at this week’s convocation ceremony.  

Patrick started at the University of Toronto in 1972 at the age of 21, with the ambition of completing an Honours Bachelor of Arts. Having attended the Basilian-run Michael Power High School in Toronto he felt a natural connection to St. Michael’s College, also run by the Basilians. 

Throughout his 20s he moved between being a full-time and part-time student and occasionally dropping courses. “I did complete some courses in my 20s, but I was not persistent in my studies,” he admits. 

He returned to U of T in the late 1980s to achieve a personal ambition of reading Homer in the original ancient Greek. His love for the language stems from fond memories of reading the great myths as a child. “Children’s stories are all retold Greek myths. I was attracted to the legendary world,” he says. 

He was often the oldest student in the class. “You’re sharing a passion and a common interest that you’re devoting so much of your energy and your time to. It doesn’t really matter what the age is,” he says. “It was very wonderful to work with young people and to see their effort and intelligence.”  

Alongside his studies, he was advancing in his career as a men’s clothing salesman. “I would come down to the campus early in the morning and have breakfast in Yorkville and go to class for 9 a.m. Afterwards I would go home or go directly to work for an afternoon or evening shift. I worked at Yorkdale at the time. I was getting up at 5:30 a.m. to study Greek and going to bed at midnight,” he says. 

He excelled in his studies, earning a place on the Dean’s List. In his third year, he was recognized as the top student in the Greek program. He took his final course, a fourth-year seminar course in Thucydides, when he was 49 years old.  

Then he needed to take time off from his studies to recover from surgery to rebuild his neck. 

“When I was studying Greek, I would study sometimes for six hours without stop. My posture was so bad that it took me some years to learn how to erect myself properly and I was very reluctant to read at length,” he says. 

Meanwhile, life got busy. He bought a house and was excelling in his career. “I finally embraced selling clothing as my career. I always had a love of clothing because I had a love of beautiful things. I was lucky enough to sell beautifully, often handcrafted, items. I sold mostly clothing that was made in Canada and Italy, not made in workshops where people are working in terrible conditions. It was important for me to do that,” he says. 

While he recognizes that he didn’t need a degree in his career, his education has been a benefit. “My education has certainly helped me. It has enriched my ability to communicate and conversations are a little bit deeper. I’m not doing this [graduating] to show off or anything. It’s for personal reasons to honour what I did and the effort I made,” he says. 

And yes, he did read Homer in its original text including both parts of the Iliad and parts of the Odyssey. “From time to time, I still go back to the ancient Greek and dip into it and review,” he says. 

Up next, Patrick will take a trip to Italy in the fall, which will be his first to Europe. He’s looking forward to visiting the country’s ancient sites that inspired his love for the Classics. He also hopes to continue his educational efforts by auditing courses this fall. 

More Convocation 2024:

Grad Para Babuharan on Finding His Community

Grad Vanessa Choi on Paying it Forward 

St. Mike’s Student Dacian Dawes on Finding her Place

Grad Patrick Policicchio on Research, Connection and Belonging

Grad Anita Rajkumar on Giving Back to her Community