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Grow On

Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport was born to Protestant parents in 1912 and grew up in Hamburg, Germany.

Her upbringing was relatively typical of the time and place – except that she broke gender norms by attending college and then medical school at the University of Hamburg.


She focused her studies on diphtheria and was in pursuit of a Ph.D.


Then Nazi Germany happened.


Though her parents were both devout Christians, her maternal grandparents were Jewish and that, according to the Nazi regime, made Syllm-Rapoport of mixed race and not truly Aryan.


Professor Rudolf Degkwitz of the University of Hamburg conceded, in 1938, that Syllm-Rapoport’s doctoral thesis would have been accepted and approved had it not been for the Nazis’ race laws which prohibited anyone of Jewish decent to receive a doctoral degree.


Syllm-Rapoport fled to America where she married. She received an M.D. and practiced medicine until she and her husband returned in Germany in 1952.


Nearly seventy-five years after she first submitted her research, the dean of the University of Hamburg, Dr. Uwe Koch-Gromus, gave Syllm-Rapoport a chance to defend her thesis.


In 2015, at the age of 102, she did.


Her mind was still sharp, and she had not wavered in passion for her subject. She passed with flying colors and became the world’s oldest recipient of a Ph.D.


There is so much I want to do. There is so much I want to accomplish. I have dreams – lots of them.


But – more importantly – I think I have God-given dreams. I believe He has a purpose for me.


I believe He has a purpose for you, too.


I don’t know how long it will take to do all that God created you to do. But if you still have a beating heart you’re not quite done.


Keep going. Keep learning. Keep discovering more of what God created you to be and do.


Grow on.

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