Honorary doctorates for 2013

25 February 2013

UCT will confer four honorary degrees this year (one to a married couple), to candidates nominated for their rich contributions both to their fields of expertise and to society.

Prof Derek Yellon   Caiphus Semenya
Prof Derek Yellon.   Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu.
Prof Klaus-Jürgen Bathe   Prof Emer Daniel Kunene
Prof Klaus-Jürgen Bathe.   Prof Emer Daniel Kunene.

They are leading cardiovascular scientist Professor Derek Yellon; internationally renowned South African couple, musicians Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu; computational engineering mechanics giant Professor Klaus-Jürgen Bathe; and literary figure and scholar Professor Emeritus Daniel Kunene.

They will be honoured at the June or December graduation ceremonies. Bathe will receive his honorary degree in September.

A UCT alumnus, Bathe is regarded as a giant in the field of computational mechanics, ranking among a handful of pioneers of a powerful procedure called the Finite Element Method, a numerical method for computer simulation of the response of complex structural and fluid systems used in engineering and the sciences, from bridges and cars to biomedical and nano structures.

He has made fundamental contributions in theories and procedures that are used worldwide in computer programmes. He retains strong links with UCT and established the Klaus-Jürgen Bathe scholarship for engineering students in 1997.

An alumnus, Kunene started his teaching career at UCT in 1954. He is a renowned literary figure and scholar in the fields of translation and critical appraisal of African orature. He is one of the foremost figures in the translation of South African texts from African languages into English. These include an acclaimed new translation of Thomas Mofolo's Sesotho novel Chaka in 1981, and a translation of CLS Nyembezi's 1950 isiZulu novel My Child! My Child! in 2010. This won him the Karel čapek Medal.

In addition to their rich contributions to music and culture here and abroad, South African music icons, husband and wife team Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu, have served as unofficial 'cultural ambassadors' for the country.

In 1981 Mbulu narrated You Have Struck a Rock, a documentary on African women's campaigns of non-violent disobedience. A protegee of Miriam Makeba, Mbulu has recorded more than 20 albums on renowned labels with highly regarded producers.

Semenya is an accomplished musical director and composer. His body of work includes conceptualising and conducting a Quincy Jones production at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He composed the African music for Roots and The Color Purple, earning Emmy Award and Grammy nominations. The couple returned to South Africa in 1990 and in 2009 they were awarded the Order of iKhamanga for their contributions to music and the struggle against apartheid.

Yellon, who holds a PhD and DSc, is a leading cardiovascular scientist whose work on myocardial protection has provided fundamental insights into the way the heart responds to the acute deprivation of blood supply in myocardial infarction (heart attack). A pioneer, Yellon has led studies that span the range of scientific endeavour, from the laboratory to clinical settings. His work is now in the process of translation into patient care. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute at UCT.

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