She was born in the year when Stellenbosch University (SU) was established: 1918. She became the first student to obtain a degree in Physical Education at Stellenbosch. She then went on to receive a Master’s degree at the age of 80. And to top it all, she is the longest-living Stellenbosch University Choir member.
Greta Gericke, who lives in George, shares stories from her days as a Matie. In the early 1940s, she was one of the first SA students to obtain a qualification in Physical Education. At 83 years of age, she represented the Southern Cape in the swimming pool and won a bronze medal at the national championships.
She started working at a community centre for Xhosa women at the age of 90, where she showed them the ropes of gardening. Also in her ninth decade, she was named the most inspiring woman in the Southern Cape.
Initially, Greta went to study physical education in England, because there were no similar courses in South Africa. But when the programme was introduced at SU, she came home to continue her studies here shortly after the start of the Second World War.
Greta, who is the mother of Prof Matilda Burden, cultural historian at the SU Museum, was captain of SU’s women’s hockey team in 1940 and served as house committee member of the residence Harmonie.
She laughingly recalls: “In those days, we designed our own sports uniforms. I remember how we rode our bicycles from Coetzenburg, where we received our practical training, to the main campus. It was a completely different town from the Stellenbosch we know today. For instance, there were no buildings at Coetzenburg. The only built structure was the pavilion.”
Matilda describes her 99-year-old mother as “formidable” and still “going strong”.
Greta says: “There really isn’t anything specific to which I owe my good health. Some of my relatives also lived to a high age. It’s just by grace.”
- By Stephanie Nieuwoudt -