Youngest and Oldest Witsies

74 year old Uli Vogler is Wits’ oldest student to date. The charming, eloquent Uli was born in London in 1937, grew up in Germany and moved to South Africa when he was 12 years old.

Uli is studying towards an MSc Engineering with a specialisation in mining and rock mechanics. The retired Uli studied a BSc part-time at the Pretoria Technikon, now known as the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and was one of the first students to study mechanical engineering at the Pretoria Technical College,

Throughout his studies, Uli worked for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He also used to consult because of his highly specialised knowledge.

A father, husband and grandfather, Uli spends most days analysing his data after spending many hours testing samples in the Wits labs.

So why study so late in life if he’s already retired?

“Something worried me over the years. I developed a certain hypothesis. Nobody really wanted to listen to me. For close to 20 years I didn’t do anything about it. I finally got the courage to suggest this hypothesis to universities and was accepted here.”

Uli’s dissertation, which will be finished by the end of the year, could provide extremely valuable information that will influence the entire mining community.

At the age of 15, Mdonisi Rodney Nyathi is one of the youngest ever students to be accepted at Wits. The shy, young man began grade one at the Institute Status Acres Secondary School in Germiston in 2000at the tender age of four and is studying to become a teacher.

Despite the massive age gap between Mdonisi and his peers, he managed to pass all six of his Matric subjects and has even taken on the task of rewriting his math exam in order to better his final mark.

“I’d like to do better,” he says. “Then I can do what I really want to do – become a chartered accountant.”

If all goes according to plan, Mdonisi will be finished his studies before he legally becomes an adult – an unimaginable feat if you consider what most adolescents are like at the age of 15.

But Mdonisi isn’t just any teenager. He is enormously gifted and talented and, while not quote a child prodigy, has managed to keep up and in some cases overtake his peers when it comes to marks.

“I never felt strange because I was younger. I’ve always felt normal.”