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Linda De Vries stays community active and teaching

Linda De Vries stays community active and teaching

At the University of the Western Cape, the new academic year has started. But for the first time in nearly forty years, it will be starting without Prof Linda De Vries as a permanent staff member. This champion of entrepreneurship and female empowerment has officially retired - but since she just can’t help lending a helping hand, she’ll still be lecturing on a part-time basis.

The former Beaufort West resident, who currently resides in Durbanville shows her latest activities make it even more evident that she’s not prepared to slow down just yet.

In the months since her retirement, she has been involved in trying to resolve the case of a rural student who has been cheated out of money after unwittingly registering at a non-bona fide tertiary institution. Prof De Vries has alerted the media to shed some light on this challenge.

She is instrumental in securing bursary money for students through the 2018 Grand West Casino Bursary allocations to UWC and other tertiary institutions.

Her life’s work at UWC has been not only to teach, but empower women (and especially rural women) through entrepreneurial and financial skills for them to become successful - and change their lives and their communities for the better.

From Khayelitsha, Langa and the greater Cape Flats area to Garies and Lambert’s Bay - all these communities (and more) have benefited from her efforts. Today these women are all enjoying the benefits - and challenges - of running established businesses.

“It’s wonderful to hear how the training has changed the women’s lives and their attitude towards education. There is really nothing as satisfying as this.”

But her heart for community isn’t where it ends: she is known as an opinion leader and key speaker at various global gambling conferences and contributing to the newly-published book on Gambling Disorders in Women: An International Female Perspective on Treatment and Research by Routledge (2017) which she marks as a wonderful opportunity to discuss important issues.

Prof De Vries has enjoyed guiding youth and school learners in entrepreneurship development by means of the  Yield project (the NGO for youth and female development and entrepreneurship), and has previously been declared  Faculty Advisor of the Year.

“I was chosen from among all the South African universities - which was a definite career highlight for me.”

There have been many other highlights, of course.

“One of my most amazing moments at UWC was hosting the National Championship of Entrepreneurship - and taking the UWC team to Toronto, Canada as the South African national champions.”

Another defining moment was when two of her mentees who were part of the Yield Project received the International HSBC Financial Literacy award, and could share their programme on a global stage in New York, USA and Toronto, Canada.

She’s taken competition winners to the International Sage competitions in California, Ukraine  and China. In 2010 she hosted schools from 20 countries at an entrepreneurial championship here in Cape Town.

From Beaufort West to Business Administration: A UWC Success Story

Beaufort West is where she completed her high school career at Bastiaanse Senior Secondary. “Our high school had no laboratories but we were very strong in Accounting and Mathematics,” she recalls.

She was born to parents Kathleen and Frans van der Linde - one of ten children: five boys and five girls.

Prof De Vries was the first daughter who proceeded to further her education at a university, followed by her youngest sister. The rest of her sisters chose to pursue careers in teaching and nursing, and enrolled at teaching and nursing colleges.

“My father believed if  the boys [her brothers] could study BSc [two brothers]  and BCom [three brothers], then his daughter could also do a degree in Commerce,”.  

The university she chose for her studies? UWC, naturally - where she completed her BCom and went on to earn a BCom Honours in Marketing and Finance (she also has an MBA from Stellenbosch University to her name).

For Prof De Vries, the chance to be part of a student’s development is one of the biggest rewards of working at a university. Her work at UWC will always be marked by being the first in offering entrepreneurship programmes to school learners.

“I will without a doubt always want to be linked to UWC,” says Prof De Vries proudly.

That connection extends to her personal life - one of her UWC highlights was when she capped her own son, Adrian,with his BSc Degree - and again for his BCom Honours in Information Systems. Another proud moment: when her son, Ryan, another UWC alumnus and YIELD mentor, was one of 40 young global leaders elected part of the prestigious HSBC Tallship leadership programme.

Her eldest son, Lester, is an electric engineer and an alumnus of UCT - but didn’t escape his mother’s influence: he’s an entrepreneur with his own engineering business, and his wife, Carmen, was a Yield mentor and one of the very first Yield champions who competed in California.She is still involved with Yield and partners with another NGO, Urban Rural Development for Poverty Alleviation in Langa.Prof De Vries has been married to Steven de Vries for the past 40 years, and is a proud mum of three. She enjoys spending time with her two-year-old grandson, Tayyib.