Press release

Graduation celebrations a family affair

Published on 29 June 2022

Almost 60 years after graduating from what is now the University of Dundee, Joan Johannessen has returned to her alma mater to watch her granddaughter receive her own degree

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Lydia Cole (23) officially graduated with a Geography degree from the University in 2021, but pandemic restrictions meant ceremonies were unable to take place at that time. On Thursday 30 June, she and her classmates, along with family and friends, will come together at the Caird Hall to enjoy in-person graduation celebrations.

Joining Lydia is Joan (83), who graduated with PhD in Pharmacology from the University, then known as Queens College, in 1963.

Joan was born and bred in Dundee, studying at Harris Academy before joining Queens College in 1955 to undertake her bachelor's degree. It was then she met her husband, Rolf Johannassen, who travelled to Dundee from Norway to study. The pair later moved down to England, where they raised their family before moving back to Scotland after retiring.

“When I chose to study at Dundee I knew my grandmother had grown up and studied here but didn’t know much more,” said Lydia. “It was in my first year when my grandparents took me out for dinner they shared more, and I got to know that’s where their story really started.

“The University campus and the city has obviously changed quite a bit since my grandparents were here. They loved coming up to see it all.

“In my final two years I stayed in a flat in Roseangle, no more than 100 yards further up the road from the house where my grandmother grew up. The flat I was in was also once the home of one of her childhood friends. She was so excited to visit and see how it was now. It all felt like such a lovely coincidence.”

The family have further connections to Dundee as the University’s Lamb Gallery, situated in the Tower Building, is named after Joan’s uncle, Lydia’s great-great-uncle.

James Charles Lamb (1894-1962) was also a former student of the University, at that time known as the University College Dundee. In 1960, his bequest started the University's Fine Art Fund. When he died shortly after the Tower Building opened, it was decided to name the exhibition gallery that had been created on the first-floor mezzanine in his honour.

Joan also has another Dundee graduation to look forward to as her grandson Samuel, Lydia’s brother, is a current student at the University and set to graduate next year.

“My family have many connections to Dundee and so many important events in my own life took place in the city,” said Joan.

“I'm very much looking forward to coming up this week. It will be a great day for the family. I’m very proud of both Lydia and Samuel.”


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878