Matie Voices

Prof GG Cillié

SU Rector 1919–1925

Prof Gabriël Gideon (GG) Cillié was born on 10 September 1870 on Rhebokskloof, a farm at the foot of the Paarl Mountain near Wellington. His secondary education at the MJ Stucki School in Blaauwvlei was interrupted when his father passed away and he looked after the farming operations for six years. However, by 1892 he returned to the school and completed his studies before going on to matriculate from the Normaal School in Cape Town in 1894. He was awarded the Middle Class Teachers’ Diploma upon his departure.

That same year, during July, Cillié enrolled at the Victoria College (today known as Stellenbosch University) for a bachelor’s in philosophy and education. He finished top of his class during his intermediate exams, and obtained his degree in 1897 with distinction. This was followed by a short two-year stint as a teacher at the Normaal School, before he left for the United Kingdom to pursue a master’s degree in English, philosophy and education at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

After obtaining his MA in 1900, Cillié departed for France where he enrolled at the University of Strasbourg for a doctorate in Greek, Latin, economics and ancient history. He received his PhD in 1904 magna cum laude, before returning to South Africa and spending the next few years teaching at the Normaal School. Thereafter he also occupied the position of head teacher at the Hoër Jongenskool in Cradock and Franschhoek High.

Cillié made a return to tertiary education in 1909 after being appointed professor of ancient languages (Latin and Greek) at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch. He subsequently became the institution’s first professor of education in 1911, as well as the first dean of the Faculty of Education when the Victoria College officially became Stellenbosch University (SU) in 1918. The following year Cillié also became the University’s very first rector, a position he held until 1925.

Under Cillié’s leadership, the Department of Economics was established, as well as the faculties of Theology and Law that were founded in 1920 and 1921 respectively. After retiring as rector, he again joined the Faculty of Education as professor, a position that he held until his retirement in 1947.

Prof Cillié passed away ten years later on 1 April 1958.