Sibylla Tindale was the director of the University of Cape Town Trust (UK) from 1990 to 2010 and remembers Dr Stuart Saunders on behalf of the Trust.
Dr Stuart Saunders – the transformative, transformational giant of the University of Cape Town (UCT) and South Africa. His intelligence, his warmth, his empathy, his brilliance, his memory, his humanity, his vision, his humour and his ambassadorial presence transformed university education in late 20th-century South Africa.
Stuart founded the UCT Trust in 1988, with the support of our notable trustees, at a time when South Africa was a pariah in Europe and North America. His bold vision of what could be powered his desire to raise funds to transform lives through education. His desire for equity – not just equality – illuminated his vision for UCT and higher education in South Africa.
“He led the way for higher education excellence available to all.”
Thus, today, South Africa has many tens of thousands of black graduates whose lives have been transformed by Stuart’s stoic stand against the apartheid state. This led to opening the UCT residences to people of colour when it was illegal to do so, to enable those from rural and township homes to study with electric light – and to be inspired by learning. In the drive to equity, he raised monies for bursaries, for enabling/bridging programmes and for investing in research capabilities; he led the way for higher education excellence available to all.
And fundraise he did. The UCT Trust raised hundreds of millions of rands, from UK benefactors mainly, the farsighted people who supported Stuart’s vision for great education for all of South Africa and beyond – for our neighbouring African nations too.
“Stuart was filled with such humour; and his empathy created the climate for agreement.”
Stuart was indomitable in supporting the UCT Trust. The weeks of back-to-back meetings in London, through the UK, into Sweden and Germany and France. The moments of huge joy when a large cheque was simply handed over, after days of persuasion, to deliver powerful postgraduate scholarships and new libraries and research buildings. And always, Stuart was filled with such humour; and his empathy created the climate for agreement.
We had fun, too! I will never forget when, like Atlas, Stuart boldly held apart the automatic doors of a Stuttgart intercity express to allow me to board, to the chagrin of the puritanical conductor; waiting in airport lounges, entertaining ourselves with identifying which European nationality of businessman (mainly men, in those days) was in the lounge, by looking at their haircuts; in a Munich beer garden, being treated by a supporter to breakfast – yes, breakfast! – with the traditional delicacy weisswurst mit weissbier (white sausage with white beer).
It was such a pleasure to work with this immense personality, such a privilege to learn at his feet, and such a joy to share his success when donations arrived.
Former Director of the UCT Trust 1990–2010
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The University of Cape Town (UCT) hosted an online memorial service for former Vice-Chancellor Dr Stuart Saunders on 24 February. Dr Saunders was a dedicated servant, steward and supporter of UCT. He passed away on Friday morning, 12 February 2021.
Stuart John Saunders was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on 28th August 1931. After graduating MBChB with honours in 1953 at the University of Cape Town, he did post-graduate research at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith in London and at Harvard University. He received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1965 (University of Cape Town). He began his administrative career as the University of Cape Town’s Head of the Department of Medicine (1971-1980) and was co-founder of the university’s Liver Clinic & Liver Research Unit (a field in which he wrote some two hundred articles and co-authored a study that has become a classical reference). He was Vice-Chancellor from January 1981 to August 1996.
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Specialist physician and former UCT vice-chancellor Dr Stuart Saunders has passed away. Saunders will be remembered for his servanthood, stewardship and support of the university over decades.15 Feb 2021 - >10 min read