Grandfather honoured for 50 years of German studies

89-year-old Ken Knapton will be awarded for his dedication after taking German classes for almost 50 years

An 89-year-old student, who has been learning German at Leeds Beckett University for almost 50 years, is to be awarded a prize to mark his dedication and achievement.

Ken Knapton, who is fluent in German, has kept up the weekly part-time classes because of his love of the language and wish to keep abreast of the country’s politics and current affairs. 

He will be awarded the Adela Bond Memorial Prize for Achievement in Modern Foreign Languages, during Leeds Beckett’s annual summer graduations. Adela, who passed away in December 2015, was Course Leader of Leeds Beckett’s part-time language programme.

Ken, a former chemical engineer who will turn 90 on New Year’s Eve, has undertaken numerous qualifications and certificates during his student tenure at the University, including a degree in German and a Diploma in Contemporary European Studies.

The grandfather-of-three, said: “I started studying German back in 1968. I’ve always been very interested in European affairs and I’d studied German at school. Before joining, I’d started classes elsewhere, which were good – but really, what I wanted was something that was more current affairs based and that’s when I switched to Leeds Beckett, which at the time was known as Leeds Polytechnic. 

“I’ve continued studying German with the University for all of these years, because I enjoy it. And if you don’t keep on top of a language it’s easy to forget things, so I keep at it.”

Ken, who lives in Headingley and used to holiday in Germany and Austria annually, added that the weekly classes were also a social occasion for him, as many of his classmates were also his friends. He has already enrolled for the next academic year’s classes.

When asked how he felt to be given the Adela Bond Memorial Award, he said he was “very surprised” and didn’t “feel deserving of it”.

I don’t know anybody else who has studied German formally as long as he has – he is an inspiration and is truly deserving of this prize – Ulrike Hitchen, Ken’s German teacher at Leeds Beckett University

His current German teacher, Ulrike Hitchen, said: “Ken is a remarkable student. He always does his homework with great commitment, attends every lesson and is brilliant at the language. He has been the expert in the class on German politics and history. I don’t know anybody else who has studied German formally as long as he has – he is an inspiration and is truly deserving of this prize.”

Ricarda Zoellner, who formerly taught Ken at Leeds Beckett, said: “Ken has seen it all since he’s been studying German. He’s been with Leeds Beckett through its predecessor names, he’s been a student of most of the German teachers that the course has had. Not only is his German excellent but his knowledge of German politics and current affairs is incredible. He is so committed to his studies, which is wonderful to see and what every teacher wants in a student.”

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