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“Language was music to her soul”: in memory of Dr Sheila Wilyman (Bowyer) 26.4.1928- 16.06.2024


Written by
Mark Piggott

Dr Sheila Wilyman, named as one of the University of London’s “Leading Women” in 2019, has passed away.

The embodiment of “lifelong learning”, Dr Wilyman graduated from the University of St Andrews with a Doctorate in 2006 at the age of 78. Her thesis was 'Metaphors of Suffering: The Representation of the Homosexual and the Lesbian as social and discursive constructs in Spanish Peninsula Texts 1970-2000'. 

It was at the University of London that Dr Wilyman began her lifelong journey, graduating with a BA degree in Russian Language and Literature in 1971 from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, followed by a BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies in 1999 aged 72.

A former hospital nursing sister, Sheila later held a research post at the Health Services Research Centre at the University of Birmingham where two of the objects of the centre were to improve the quality of life of the elderly, and to delay the ageing process.

Dr Wilyman was a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother with a lifelong interest in languages, said her daughter, Professor Susan S M Edwards, Professor of Law at the University of Northumbria and Emerita Professor of Law at the University of Buckingham.

“Sheila broke many glass ceilings and demonstrated in her lived life a continuing development of the intellect through studying philosophy, languages and literature,” said Prof Edwards. “She taught me through example the importance of always being a woman who asks questions and to look steadfastly forward and develop an inquiring mind.

“She continued with her love and passion for Spanish literature up until the very last day, reading classical works of world literature, always in Spanish, and as with all her books recently read Lev Tolstoi ‘Guerra y paz’ (War and Peace), heavily marked. She always wore a necklace bearing an illustration of Don Quixote and an inscription 'Nuestra sueña se realizo' (Our dream came true).

“Sheila’s love for London and the University of London was unsurpassable, on a par with her love of Scotland, St Andrews and Spain. We were truly honoured when the University of London acknowledged her incredible personal and intellectual journey and her groundbreaking determination to continue to develop the mind to the very, very end. Spanish language was music to her soul.”


Dr Sheila Wilyman (Bowyer) cropped

Dr Sheila Wilyman (Bowyer)