But, for the 81-year-old, it marked a particularly outstanding achievement as he had just been awarded his eighth degree.
Over the last 35 years, Mr Stephen has studied for two BAs, two MA (Hons), an LLB, a BD, a Phd and yesterday received an MLitt.
He said: "I started out to achieve the old mediaeval trilogy of being proficient in the arts, law and divinity and I did that.
"I'm not a first class honours individual but I got 2:1s and one of my tutors said, 'Come back and push it up a bit more'."
His wife, Dr Jane Drummond, a senior lecturer in Geographical and Earth Sciences at Glasgow, attended the graduation ceremony.
She said: "His age may be a Scottish record for this academic year, but what is perhaps more likely to be noteworthy is his degree count. Is this a record, for a living Scot?"
But despite his potentially record-breaking achievement, Mr Stephen, of Jordanhill, Glasgow, is modest about his studies. He said: "All through life I've just followed the golden mean; never too high or too low. Not like Icarus getting my wings melted by the sun." And he joked: "Having done all these useless subjects my next goal is medicine and then maybe dentistry and then I'll be of some use."
Despite the wealth of letters after his name – he can now refer to himself as Dr John Stephen BA BA MA(Hons) LLB BD MA(Hons) Ph.D MLitt, it was not until later in life he achieved his first degree.
The police officer was working at Glasgow Sheriff Court when he embarked on an general arts degree through the Open University which he followed with a second literature-based BA.
After retiring in the mid 1970s, he was able to devote himself to full-time study and studied for an MA in History at Glasgow.
Mr Stephen believes it was a traumatic time in his childhood that gave him the drive which has served him all his life.
When he was seven, an icy snowball thrown at him by a boy at school left him in hospital for a year and deaf in one ear.
Mr Stephen recalled: "When I arrived I was lying on a trolley and there were two doctors behind me who must have thought I was unconscious. One said: 'Will we have him moved to a bed?' and the other replied: 'No, just leave him here, he'll not last 'til morning.' I think that gave me an impetus to keep going."
Being hospitalised for so long also gave him an appetite for reading which has continued throughout his life. His studies also had an unexpected outcome – he met his wife when she was his lecturer during his second MA in the late 1990s.
Professor Anton Muscatelli, Glasgow University's Principal, said Mr Stephen's "commitment to lifelong learning sets a tremendous and inspiring example to students everywhere".
Education Secretary Michael Russell added: "I congratulate him on his success and wish him well in his future endeavours. I only hope I go on learning as well as he has."
John’s roll of honour
1976-1981: Open University, Bachelor of Arts, BA
1982-84: Open University, Bachelor of Arts, BA
1986 -1988: Glasgow University, Master of Arts in Medieval and Modern History, MA (Hons)
1989 -1992: Dundee University, Scots Law, LLB
1993-1996: Glasgow University, Bachelor of Divinity, BD
1996 - 2000: Glasgow University, Master of Arts in Archaelogy and Geography, MA (Hons)
2000-2005: Glasgow University, Doctor of Philosophy on the historical geography of religion, PhD
2006-2012: Glasgow University, Master of Lettters in How the Presbyterian Church met the challenge of the great famine in Ireland and Scotland, 1848-55, MLitt