UCT hails loyal long-service staffers

17 October 2011

On 6 October, the vice-chancellor, Dr Max Price, presented the annual Long-Service Awards at a dinner, an occasion on which the university can fête all those UCT staffers who have served the university for 15, 25 and 35 years. In the spotlight below are the four long servers with 35 years' service, Trevor Adams (Animal Unit), Peter Jaftha (Animal Unit), Rhoda Joseph (Upper Campus Postal Services) and Donald Solomons (Department of Molecular and Cell Biology). We also feature pictures (right) of those who've notched up a quarter of a century in UCT's employ and attended the dinner. Congratulations to all! View more photos of the awards.

Rhoda Joseph Donald Solomons Trevor Adams Peter Jaftha
Rhoda Joseph, Upper Campus Postal Services Donald Solomons, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology Trevor Adams, Animal Unit Peter Jaftha, Animal Unit

Rhoda Joseph

A member of our busy postal services team, Rhoda Joseph knows more than her fair share of shortcuts around our campus.

Joseph started her working life in the old Student Union cafeteria, where the Molly Blackburn Hall is today.

Students of that era remember the doughnut machine Joseph manned. She also worked in the cafeterias on other parts of campus: at Hiddingh Hall in town, in the old School of Education building where Kramer Law Building stands today, and even in the old Bat and Cat in the Sports Centre when it first opened.

"I met many students," Joseph says. "I even remember the Registrar, Hugh Amoore, riding his bike to campus."

When the catering services were outsourced, Joseph joined Properties and Services and was deployed in the PD Hahn Building as a cleaner. And when the cleaning services were outsourced she moved to the mailroom as a postal messenger on upper campus.

Sun, wind or rain, sometimes dressed in weatherproof clothing, she knows all the nooks and crannies of the campus and is still learning new shortcuts to ensure the mail is delivered quickly.

Donald Solomons

Fresh out of school in Oudtshoorn, Solomons came to UCT to begin work as a cleaner in the former Microbiology Department.

By 1988, two promotions and several merit awards later, he undertook full responsibility for all activities in the Plant Growth Rooms, five such facilities in the department where plants are propagated for research.

Solomons takes care of all the planting for the students and for the migration of plant viruses studied in the laboratories. These are diseases such as tobacco and maize streak virus. Research on plant viruses has been conducted by UCT for many years, dating back to Professor Barbara von Wechmar's work in the mid-1980s for the Maize and Wheat Boards.

These days, although Solomons continues to man the Plant Growth Rooms, he has acquired a different set of skills to provide invaluable support in the Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, as it is now named.

He's seen plenty of change at UCT in 35 years, made friends in many departments and worked under numerous heads of department.

A creative and enterprising individual, Solomons' hobby is sign-writing, which he plans to turn into a post-retirement career.

He's also a keen rugby supporter and played wing in his early days.

"All of us from Oudtshoorn are fast - we can run like ostriches!' he quips.

Trevor Adams

Adams joined the UCT Animal Unit 35 years ago, on 16 June, as it turns out.

It was his love of animals that brought him to the unit, his first job out of school. It was a good match. While growing up in Observatory and then Heideveld, Adams kept pigeons, rabbits and chickens.

The unit cares for and breeds animals for research purposes. Adams prides himself on ensuring that the animals in his care are healthy and well tended. His vast experience and responsible nature are invaluable for overseeing and training new animal caretakers - there are four in training at the moment - and for solving operational challenges in the unit.

When he began his career, Adams worked with larger mammals such as dogs, baboons and pigs. Fifteen years later he began tending the rats and mice, and now breeds and cares for hundreds of different varieties of mice, providing the sterile and clean environments they need to thrive.

"After the larger animals, mice were small and dainty, and I enjoy working with them."

Peter Jaftha

Jaftha started his career at UCT at just 16, also starting out in the UCT Animal Unit. Over the years he's cared for a variety of animals, building a broad range of skills. His meticulous, trustworthy and responsible nature has made him a pillar of the high-quality animal care in the unit.

During the course of his work, Jaftha has met and worked with many people, young and old. Some would go on to illustrious careers as clinicians and researchers. The late Professor Chris Barnard is a case in point.

"He was very straightforward. 'Do your job properly and don't mishandle the animals' was what he once said," Jaftha recalls.

He never envisaged he would be at UCT this long, and looks forward to a few more years working here until he retires. Any words of wisdom to youngsters starting out in the work environment? Patience and hard work, he advises. "Don't make the mistake of hopping from one job to the next."

An active soccer player in his heyday, Jaftha now supports his favourite teams, Ajax Cape Town and Liverpool.

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