Siamon Gordon is a Glaxo Wellcome emeritus professor of cellular pathology at the University of Oxford, and a fellow of the Royal Society. He studied at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and interned at Groote Schuur Hospital. Emeritus Professor Gordon reflects on his time and experiences with Dr Stuart Saunders, the former vice-chancellor of UCT, who passed away on 12 February 2021, after a short illness.
After graduating MBChB in 1961, I spent the first six months of my internship at Groote Schuur Hospital working under Stuart. I can still hear the full-throated laugh that characterised his sensitive management of medical rounds.
After a year in London and a decade in New York training as a research immunologist, I was fortunate to take up a post at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford. As a South African, I shepherded Stuart from time to time during his visits to Oxford to promote UCT connections with the Regius Professor of Medicine, chair of the Nuffield Fellowship scheme, and the Warden of Rhodes House, administering the Rhodes scholars from South Africa.
“My regular annual visits to Cape Town reinforced my admiration for his skills at resisting the political demands of the apartheid regime.”
Accompanying him on his round of interviews with successive dignitaries opened my eyes, as I observed this master diplomat in full fundraising pursuit. He immediately became “one of them”, fully at ease, teasing and cajoling, as if they shared a common background, education and values. I had to admire his skill at inducing them to part with valuable resources, all the time enjoying his triumphs with the slight raising of an eyebrow and a wink in my direction.
My regular annual visits to Cape Town reinforced my admiration for his skills at resisting the political demands of the apartheid regime. His published account of this experience should be required reading for all those who doubt the degree of transformation achieved in student access, housing and opportunities during his years as vice-chancellor of UCT.
But to me, he was always the consummate physician – down to earth, and ready to share a secret joke between ourselves.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.