We remember Prof John van der Westhuizen and Assoc Profr Paddy Harrison

26 March 2012

Professor John van der Westhuizen, one-time De Beers Professor of English Language, died in Cape Town on 3 March 2012 after a long illness.

Born in 1933, he was educated first at UCT and later at London University. His fields of specialism were Old Icelandic, Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. His spirited engagement with the Norse sagas and with the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer inspired many generations of students.

Van der Westhuizen had the rare distinction of being a black appointment to a prestigious chair during the apartheid era. This was at a time when almost all personnel of the then-Faculty of Arts and most of the student body were white.

His commitment to what many considered to be an arcane field of study was a refreshing object lesson in academic freedom. He pursued knowledge for its own sake without regard to narrow socio-political considerations. And yet he did not share in the desire to mystify which sometimes bedevils specialist academics.

He was a born populariser, at pains to show the common human heritage to be found in the early northern poets, whose work formed his subject matter, and in the South African students who were reading them. During his tenure of the chair he travelled to the US where he conducted successful seminars at university level.

His special talent as a teacher was to make his subject come alive.

With thanks to Geoffrey Haresnape, emeritus professor of English, UCT.

Award-winning nursing stalwart Associate Professor Paddy Harrison died in March, aged 91.

Harrison, who in 1982 became UCT's first Helen and Morris Mauerberger Professor of Nursing, dedicated her life to the development of the nursing profession in South Africa, more particularly to nurturing young nurses.

Harrison was among the first students to complete the diploma in nursing programme in UCT's former Department of Nursing, now the Division of Nursing & Midwifery, in 1937. She started teaching at UCT in 1959, running the Sister Tutor's Diploma, and was appointed as full-time lecturer in 1961.

In 1972 she launched UCT's BSc programme in nursing, and the master's in nursing programme in 1982.

Among her many honours was a South African Nursing Association Gold Medal in 1982.

Dr Una Kyriacos, acting head of the Division of Nursing & Midwifery, says they remember Harrison for her sense of humour and her deep knowledge of the history of nursing.

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