The Trianon Retirement Village in Diepriver was abuzz with excitement on Monday the 20th of May 2013. Family, friends, old students and caring staff packed the lounge to celebrate the 100th birthday of Professor Morna Mathias, a pioneer in her time.
Professor Mathias had a very distinguished career as a geologist and lecturer at the University of Cape Town(UCT). "She is a legend." said Erica Fodder(75), a student of the professors in the 50's. "Not only was she one of the first female geologists but she was also one of the first female professors and lecturers in the Sciences Department in a time when woman were generally not accepted into the faculty."
Mrs Fodder continued to say that the Professors stature as a professional was superseded only by her warm and caring nature. “I remember when a certain Mr Alan Moore from Rhodes University came to visit UCT. He fell sick and the Professor went out of her way to take him to her doctor, insisting on paying for all his medical bills,” she said.
In 1983 Professor Mathias was honoured for her tireless work in Geology, especially with regards to her work in experimental mineralogy, when a newly found mineral, Mathiasite, was named after her. Mathiasite is a beautiful black with a metallic luster and grey streaks.
Iona Devito(72) travelled all the way from England just be with her mother on this grand occasion. Asked about a specific fond memory she had of her mother, Devito quickly answered, “there are so many but they can all be summed up by this; the way in which she has always been a wonderful mother to me.”
Mrs Sonia Cohen(97), who was Professor Mathias’s neighbor at the retirement village, spoke of times when they would have coffee together. “She is a very nice women, and she loves reading. Every time I see her she has another book with her.”
“She is a real professor,” remarked Marge Lewis, a carer at the village, “she is always reading. Sometimes Professor can be a little difficult though, when her sweet tooth gets the better of her. Then she will pretend to be sick and ask for chocolate until she gets it. It is like magic though. Once she has had her chocolate she immediately becomes well again,” Lewis laughs fondly.
Professor Mathias loved her birthday celebration and spending time with all the visitors who came to celebrate with her. “I am overwhelmed by everyones kindness,” she said in an impromptu speech, after which family and friends wished her well for the years to come.