Pentti Tikkanen

Lifelong joy of learning – 79-year-old Pentti soon has a bachelor's in business and is dreaming of a doctorate

Tiina Ramsila
Continuous learning is talked about a lot nowadays, and it's not just a passing trend. It is both enriching and sometimes essential to be able to enhance one's skills in line with changes or even switch to an entirely new field. The joy of learning doesn't have to end with one's career. At the University of Vaasa, for instance, you can find 79-year-old Pentti Tikkanen attending management lectures alongside his twenty-something classmates. And Mr. Tikkanen has no intention of settling for a master's degree – he has his sights set on a dissertation and the title of doctor.

The longer you talk to Tikkanen, the more you admire his cheerful and sharp mind, energy, and ambition. But what motivated him, at over seventy, to pursue university studies and aim for a degree in business? 

– I am curious, and I have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. I want to understand things and take a stand. I may be outspoken and annoy some people, but they always know I'm not just talking nonsense. 

From open university student to degree seeker 

Tikkanen entered the University of Vaasa through the open university route. At the University of Vaasa, one can transition from an open university student to a degree-seeking student after completing enough credits. Tikkanen began his business studies at the Open University in 2019 and completed 25 credits in business law. 

– There were so few student spots in business law that I ended up on the waiting list, so I switched to management. I have decades of work experience in that field, and I'm used to looking at things from a CEO's perspective. However, managing people is difficult. 

"If I remain healthy, I'm also interested in doctoral studies. My dream is to defend a doctoral dissertation someday."

Advancing to doctoral studies after master's degree 

Tikkanen, a husband, a father of three, and a grandfather of nine, was partly inspired by his daughter who lives in the United States and earned a doctorate in education in 2021. 

– My daughter's dissertation was also a reason for me to start studying. I've been regretful about not completing my own business school education when I was younger. That was another reason why I wanted to attend university and graduate with a degree in business. 

This spring, Tikkanen will begin master's level studies, aiming to complete them within a year. When the conversation turns to what happens after getting a master's degree, Tikkanen has a clear answer. Not a word about taking a break. 

– If I remain healthy, I'm also interested in doctoral studies. My dream is to defend a doctoral dissertation someday. 

Management student Pentti Tikkanen enjoys studying among younger students.

Smart young minds fill the lecture halls 

Currently, Tikkanen enjoys studying among younger students. 

– Young people are really smart; I am impressed by how intelligent they are. I have been incredibly well-received, and I notice that they respect a senior student. The teachers, in turn, are very professional and motivated, although I look forward to having some debates with the professors, Tikkanen says with a smile. 

Tikkanen still sits on the boards of three companies and is also involved in the work of a city council. And, of course, Tikkanen still has his own small business that specialises in the treatment of rare trees.

– I would like to remind young people that your background does not decide or limit your future or career choices. I have an engineering background and over 20 years of work experience in the technical field. Yet, I've been in management roles for over 20 years as a CEO and as a member and chair of many company boards. 

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