Long-service stalwarts honoured

29 October 2012

It's a highlight on the UCT calendar, and last week's Long Service Awards dinner in the stately Smuts Dining Hall, honouring those who'd notched up 15, 25 and 35 years of service, underscored the importance of the event. Altogether, 87 long-servers have been honoured at UCT this year, having contributed 1,660 years of service in diverse areas.

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Dr Max Price thanks staff members for 35 years of continuous service: (Clockwise from top left) Nazeem Damon (Department of Human Biology), George Jacobs (Division of Immunology), Sydney Jansen (Baxter Theatre Centre), Shaheema Luckan (Libraries, Music), David van Sensie (HR Administration & Payroll), and Robert Johnson (South African College of Music).

"You all represent a truly remarkable repository of institutional memory!" said Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price at the event. "It is increasingly rare to find employees that stay with an organisation for long periods, but I would like to think that what makes our organisation different from others is that no matter what job we undertake at UCT, we all share common goals and take the university's mission to heart."

Six staffers were honoured for 35 years' service: Sydney Jansen (Baxter Theatre Centre), George Jacobs (Immunology) Shaheema Luckan (Libraries, Music), David van Sensie (HR Administration and Payroll), Nazeem Damon (Human Biology), and Robert Johnson (South African College of Music). (Another 35-year service awardee, Graham Foule, was unable to attend.)

Each has witnessed significant change within the university and beyond campus. And each will no doubt remember 1977, the year they signed up at UCT. In South Africa's broader history it was momentous too: Pik Botha was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Antipolis, a Greek oil tanker, ran aground at Oudekraal; Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko died in police detention; and the Progressive Federal Party was formed.

Six of the best

Nazeem Damon (Department of Human Biology)

Having joined UCT's Building and Services Department, Damon probably never imagined he'd be working with animals, both in simulated and in wet-laboratory conditions. He started out as a switchboard operator in the Department of Physiology and then took a post as laboratory assistant in the department. It was something of a giant leap, and in 2007 a unique position was created for him as lab assistant/IT liaison assistant in the Department of Human Biology. He now provides IT support to a large body of staff and students. Damon has also played an integral role in the transition of undergraduate laboratory physiology from wet labs to computer-simulated student practicals.

George Jacobs: Division of Immunology

Jacobs joined the Faculty of Health Sciences as a cleaner in the Anatomy Building but was soon learning to operate the telephonic switchboard that serviced the building. Rewarded for his initiative, Jacobs took over the Animal Unit's switchboard and when UCT moved to a central switchboard in the late 1970s, he joined the Department of Clinical Science and Immunology as a laboratory assistant. Here he established himself as the 'go-to' laboratory assistant, able to perform any duty. Jacobs' on-going contribution enables the Division of Immunology laboratories to carry out the essential functions of research and teaching.

Sydney Jansen (Baxter Theatre Centre)

Jansen joined the Baxter as a stage hand but soon found his niche in the Lighting Department, rising to the rank of senior lighting technician. During his long tenure he's seen to the rigging, focusing, plotting and operation of the lighting for hundreds of shows and events in all three Baxter venues. Jansen has also witnessed the development and staging of ground-breaking local theatrical productions, as well as touring international shows. In 1985 he accompanied the production of Miss Julie to the Edinburgh Festival and the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. His lighting has helped evoke a mood and atmosphere that becomes an integral part of the audience's experience.

Robert Johnson (South African College of Music)

After obtaining a national trade certificate in industrial electronics (with distinction), Johnson began his career as a sound engineer at the Baxter. After his appointment in 1981 to technical officer at the SACM, he rose rapidly through the ranks to senior technical officer in 1984. In 2007 he was appointed chief technical officer. Johnson plays a vital role at the music school. As the SACM's resident sound engineer, he has created a vast archive of sound recordings and has made a significant contribution to the maintenance and acquisition of a large array of audio-visual equipment. Throughout his career, Johnson has shown attention to detail and a keen interest in the latest audio technology.

David van Sensie (HR Administration and Payroll)

Van Sensie's debut at UCT was at the Baxter Theatre Centre as a switchboard operator, but the versatile staffer also doubled up as a driver. He moved up the ranks at the Baxter, first as an office assistant, and later as a deputy front-of-house manager. In 1993 Van Sensie joined Campus Control before taking a post in Personnel. He later joined the Registry Office as the registry assistant under registry controller Jean Chambers. Following Chambers' retirement in 2003 Van Sensie was promoted to registry controller, and this is where he's made his home. A loyal member of the university community, Van Sensie is renowned for his sense of humour, which brightens many a meeting.

Shaheema Luckan (Libraries, Music)

Luckan's career began in the Periodicals Department of the Libraries and she has vivid memories of how elated she was to get the position. She'd had to choose between studying at the University of the Western Cape and a job at UCT. After 15 years in periodicals, Luckan moved to the Cataloguing Department. After an eight-year stint here she moved to the WH Bell Music Library, where she's still part of the busy team. There have been many changes in libraries and information. She remembers managing hundreds of stock cards in steel cabinets. Now, accessing tons of information is a click of the mouse away! Never giving up on her dream of a degree, Luckan is studying towards her bachelor's in library and information science.

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