Rose Mary Rizk Degrasse

Rose Mary Rizk DeGrasse

Briar Cliff University alumna Rose Mary Rizk DeGrasse will celebrate her 110th birthday on October 4, 2022.  She will be one of just 70 supercentenarians in the United States.  A “Supercentenarian” is considered a person who has reached or exceeded 110 years of age.  Researchers have suggested there are less than 450 supercentenarians in the world.

“On behalf of the Briar Cliff community, we wish Rose a very Happy Birthday,” says Dr. Patrick Jacobson-Schulte, Briar Cliff University Interim President. “As one of our longest-living alumnae, Rose has built an incredible legacy in the past 110 years. We wish her continued health and happiness in the years to come and look forward to helping her celebrate this big day.” 

DeGrasse currently live in San Antonino, Texas, with her daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Charles Knapik after spending nearly 97 years in Sioux, City Iowa.  She attributes her long life to a close-knit family, a healthy Mediterranean diet, and a strong belief in God.

DeGrasse attended Immaculate Conception Grade School, East Junior High School, and graduated from East High School.  She studied at the University of Iowa for two years, studying Psychiatric Social Work. She graduated from Briar Cliff College in 1934, when the institution was an all-women college, with a class of 12. She served as senior class president and women’s golf champion.  

“To get to school, dad would drive me downtown,” said Degrasse.  “From there, I’d take the streetcar to 27thand Jackson where the school’s janitor would pick up a few of us girls and drive us to Briar Cliff in his old Buick… I remember Sister Servatius who started the school.”

Rose enjoyed a lifetime of golf and walking.  She and her husband Charles “Chuck” DeGrasse have traveled all over the world and participated in pro-am golf tournaments that included Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and more.  She joined the hole-in-one club on the Par three, eighth hole at the Morningside Country Club.  Rose played for 75 years before giving up golf at the age of 96.  DeGrasse spends her time watching golf tournaments on TV while also cheering on Briar Cliff sports teams.  She continues to walk a mile every day, permitting the weather in Texas.

DeGrasse credits her long healthy life to her Mediterranean diet.  “Mom was a good cook,” she said.  She enjoys eating Kibbeh, tabouleh, hummus, fatayer, bracht (Lebanese lamb), qoosaa, and vegetables from her garden.  Rose still enjoys her sweets such as cookies, dessert, and ice cream.  

DeGrasse also served on numerous committees of Sioux City’s Immaculate Conception and Mater Dei parishes, as well as being an RCIA Sponsor.  She is currently a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in San Antonio.  She prays daily alongside the crystal rosary her oldest son Rick made for her when he was a child.

Rose has lived through close to 10 decades and has experienced many life-changing events.  Weekend entertainment used to be a lot cheaper when she was a child.  “Every Sunday, Dad would give each of us 25 cents to spend on a movie,” said DeGrasse.  “Three cents to ride the streetcar downtown, ten cents for the movie, and three cents for the streetcar ride home.”

She also remembers the end of World War I and being a young girl during that time.  “We were just kids when World War I ended, but I remember running out into the streets with friends, banging pots and pans together…”  During World War II, every Sunday after Mass the “women would stand on the church steps reading letters from the boys and try to figure out where they were stationed… they weren’t allowed to tell us.”

Rose and Chuck have three children, four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren. On October 4, 2022, Rose will hold a dinner with her extended family, and hold zoom and facetime calls with her family and friends.