Two educators to be honoured this week

06 June 2011

UCT will present two of the year's four honorary doctorates during the June graduation ceremonies to recipients who are familiar with the university and the graduation podium in Jameson Hall. Education icon Stella Petersen completed three degrees and a teaching diploma at UCT, while Emeritus Professor Martin West capped thousands, if not tens of thousands, of students in the selfsame venue over his 17 years as deputy vice-chancellor here.

Stella Petersen   Emer Prof Martin West
Honours roll: Stella Petersen and Emer Prof Martin West will be honoured by UCT at this week's graduation ceremonies.

Stella Petersen

Petersen, who will receive an honorary doctorate in education, completed a BSc in botany and zoology, an MSc in science, a senior teaching diploma and a BEd degree at UCT over the early to mid-1940s. Her academic achievements won her a prestigious international educational fellowship to the US, where she became the first South African to study at Syracuse University in New York, earning a master's in education in 1949.

Petersen has been described as a deeply revered and respected community figure, and was renowned for her dedication as a teacher, and the high standards she set her learners. On returning from the US she found her first teaching post in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, before returning to Cape Town for a stint at Harold Cressy High School, then returning to her alma mater, Livingstone High School. (The two Cape Town schools, both affiliated to the Unity Movement, would earn prominence both for their outstanding academic track records and for political activism.

"Among these schools," wrote UCT deputy vice-chancellor Professor Crain Soudien in a 2006 paper, "Cressy, Trafalgar, Livingstone and South Peninsula were prime targets of the apartheid regime and the Cape Town City Council."

Petersen would stay at Livingstone until her retirement from her last position as a biology teacher in 1970. By that time she had become one of the school's legendary educationists, committed to the school's learning ambitions and its anti-apartheid ethos.

Her teaching didn't stop there, however. Until 2005 she served as an educational officer in the environmental centre of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where she was recognised for her contributions to conservation awareness.


Emeritus Professor Martin West

West will receive an honorary doctorate in literature, awarded in particular for his role in the university's governance and transformation during a turbulent period of transition. West retired from UCT in 2008 after serving with distinction for 17 years as a deputy vice-chancellor, and later as vice-principal. He served under four vice-chancellors, and made vital contributions to changing governance at UCT during the first decade of a democratic South Africa.

West also held the student affairs portfolio for over a decade, successfully managing a time of great change as the student body became more representative. He played a major role in the transition of the university's residences, the unification and development of sport on the campus, and in the shift in student politics from mainly protest to a system of co-operative governance.

He also set up an International Office, which significantly developed the international component of the student body, and played the key role in the creation of the Science, Humanities and Engineering Partnerships in Africa (USHEPiA) programme, a partnership that allows young academics from seven other African universities to conduct research at UCT.

West's 44-year-long association with UCT goes back to 1964, when he started here as a student. He joined the staff in 1971 as a lecturer, and became a professor of social anthropology in 1978. He is a former director of the Centre for African Studies and president of the UCT Staff Association, and also served as deputy dean of the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities in 1989.

In 2008 he received a Vice-Chancellor's Medal for his outstanding service to UCT from then-vice-chancellor, Professor Njabulo S Ndebele.

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Monday Monthly

Volume 30 Edition 09

06 Jun 2011

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