Of hoods, gowns and graduations

06 December 2004

Hoods and gowns and champagne... the season is upon us. The culmination of a year of intense academic activity, graduation week will see scores of students return to Jameson Hall to be capped this week.

Graduation ceremonies take place each morning and afternoon, with a special "regraduation ceremony" for medical alumni planned for Friday afternoon when the classes of 1954 and 1964 will be "capped" during their reunion.

At this week's graduation ceremonies, UCT will cap 2 530 undergraduate students and 959 postgraduate students. In addition, 787 diplomas are to be awarded.

This year's crop of postgraduates boasts 60 confirmed PhDs whose work spans a host of disciplines, with many of them focused on the challenges facing the African continent.

In addition, UCT will confer two honorary doctorates, one on former United Democratic Front (UDF) activist, South African High Commissioner to London and, until recently, the head of South African tourism, Cheryl Carolus. The other will be awarded to Professor Kurt Danzinger, a psychologist whose opposition to the solitary confinement of political detainees led to him giving expert evidence in the legal trial of Neville Alexander and others, in which he argued that this was a form of torture. He is resident in Canada.

Carolus will be awarded an honorary doctorate in law on December 10. She has been nominated for her distinguished contribution to public life.

Carolus started her career in 1979 as a secondary school teacher, taking up the post of full-time provincial secretary with the UDF in 1983. She went on to become the UDF's national coordinator in 1985. In 1991 she was elected a full-time member of the ANC's national executive committee, working as coordinator of ANC policy until 1994 when she became the deputy secretary general of the party. She assumed her post as South African High Commissioner to London in 1998, later returning to South Africa to take up the job of chief executive officer of South African tourism on November 1, 2001.

In 1965, Danziger was effectively exiled by John Vorster (then Minister of Justice) when he was declared a prohibited person. He consequently left the country, taking up an academic position at York University in Canada, where he retired in 1994. During his long and distinguished academic career, Danziger established himself as a world-renowned scholar and one of the leading historians of psychology.

He was born in 1927 in Breslau, Germany, but moved to South Africa in 1939 when he was 12 years old, his family fleeing victimisation by the Nazi regime. He graduated from UCT with a joint BA and BSc degree in June 1948, later completing an MSc in psychology. He lectured in Melbourne, KwaZulu-Natal and Indonesia before being appointed head of psychology at UCT in June 1959 at the age of 32. He returned to South Africa only after the country's democratisation. He was appointed an honorary professor at UCT in 2000.

Danziger will be given an honorary doctorate in social science on December 9.

Among the PhDs to be awarded are:

  • In oceonography to Todd Brent Switzer. A professional mountain biker from the United States, Switzer completed his PhD on the Knysna river estuary, looking at the dynamic and chemico-physical functioning of the lagoon.
  • In mathematics and applied mathematics to Jeff Murugan whose thesis is "an eclectic collection of results in contemporary string theory (the current major attempt to unite quantum theory with gravity) and cosmology (the study of the expanding universe)". His supervisor was Distinguished Professor George Ellis.
  • In English language and literature to Mark Richard Eyeington on Joseph Conrad and the ideology of fiction. Eyeington has dedicated this degree to the memory of his parents, Dick and Enid Eyeington, who were murdered in Somaliland in 2003 while working as teachers at a school north of Mogadishu.
  • In electrical engineering to Michaella Janse van Vuuren, an artist by training, whose work is in the area of developing computer vision systems that can be used for surveillance, teleconferencing, games, interactive worlds, character animation, sign language translation, and many other applications. In 2002 she was awarded the NRF Scarce Skills Scholarship.
  • In English language and literature to Nigel Crawhall, a linguist whose study of San languages is already well known. In his thesis, Crawhall looks at the languages spoken in the Gordonia and Postmasburg districts of the Northern Cape.
  • In social development to Merle Futter, a physiotherapist who has been closely involved in providing wheelchairs to disabled people in Lotus River. In her thesis she undertook an analysis of the intervention. Her research will inform social policy formulation for the country's indigent disabled.
  • In botany to Amy Spriggs, whose work on the honeybush tea has produced information essential to the progress of the industry. Also getting a PhD in botany is Anton Pauw, son of TV newsman Charl Pauw, who has looked at variation in pollination in fragmented pockets of indigenous vegetation in the Cape.
  • Also, Professor Jan Glazewski will receive an LLD for published works. His book, Environmental Law in South Africa, is a comprehensive study that has attracted critical acclaim, both locally and abroad. Glazewski was the winner of UCT's annual book award in 2002.

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