Knighted alumnus dies

07 May 2007
Lasting legacy: A memorial service for Sir Raymond "Bill" Hoffenberg is scheduled for 8 May at the medical school.

Sir Raymond "Bill" Hoffenberg left a lasting legacy, one of principles, courage and determination in the face of a banning order that changed his life.

Sir Raymond "Bill" Hoffenberg (84), the gifted endocrinologist, medical scientist and political activist who was banned by the South African government in 1967, died in Oxford on 21 April.

A gifted scholar, Hoffenberg enrolled to study medicine at UCT at 16. After serving in North Africa and Italy during World War 2, he completed his MBChB degree in 1948. He later broadened his experience working under Albert Schweitzer at Lambaréné in Gabon.

Described as "a deeply committed liberal", Hoffenberg's later banning order confined him to the Cape Peninsula, prohibiting him from attending gatherings. It also made it impossible for the UCT Fellow to continue his duties at Groote Schuur Hospital or as a senior lecturer at the medical school, positions he had held with distinction since 1959.

Despite strong reaction to the banning - there was a national outcry, led by academic staff, the Students' Representative Council, the National Union of South African Students and the University Council - the Minister of Justice remained unmoved.

On 28 March 1968, Hoffenberg and his family left for England. Over a thousand students and staff gathered in the Jameson Hall to say farewell.

Hoffenberg's departure for England was that country's gain. He was appointed head of the Department of Medicine and William Withering Professor at the University of Birmingham, one of the most prestigious chairs in England. From 1983 to 1989 he was president of the Royal College of Physicians.

Hoffenberg was awarded a knighthood in 1984 for his contributions to British medicine.

In 1993, in changed times, UCT conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Science in Medicine honoris causa.

Hoffenberg never forgot his UCT roots. He served on the board of the UCT Trust in the UK, a registered charitable trust raising funds and support for the university in the UK and Europe.

"It was with heavy hearts that we received the news of Sir Raymond's passing," vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Njabulo S Ndebele, said. "He was a distinguished alumnus of this university. His ban in our country, and subsequent emigration, was a tremendous loss. However, we are indebted to him for his continuous efforts as an activist for South Africa."

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