UKZN Loses Prominent Academics
The University pays tribute to esteemed academics, Professors Jeff Guy and Patricia Berjak who recently passed away.
Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Associate of UKZN, Professor Patricia Berjak
It is with great sadness that we inform the University and broader Scientific Community of the death, after a short illness, of Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Associate of UKZN, Professor Patricia Berjak. Berjak, a world leader in the study of seeds, began her scientific career in 1962 with a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry from the University of the Witwatersrand. She went on to graduate with a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences before realising her calling as a Seed Biologist; the subject of her PhD, obtained in 1969 from the former University of Natal.
Professor Berjak served the University of Natal and University of KwaZulu-Natal for over 48 years and in many capacities, including Head of Department, numerous University committees and more recently expert/mentor in the Research Office. She joined the Plant Biology Department at the University of Natal in 1966 as a Junior Lecturer. As a Professor Emeritus, she continued to lecture and actively supervise postgraduate students within the School of Life Sciences at UKZN up until October, 2014.
Pat, as she was affectionately known by all, was passionate about seeds and conservation. She was one of South Africa’s few A-rated scientists and achieved a number of highly significant breakthroughs in the understanding of recalcitrant seeds, seeds that lack the ability to survive for sufficiently long periods in storage, thus undermining food security in the developing world. It was her personal drive, unrivalled work ethic and desire to make a difference that established her research group as one of the most respected in the field of recalcitrant seed biology world-wide.
Berjak’s innovative research has been highly recognised globally and her numerous accolades include being elected member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a Fellow of the University of Natal, the Royal Society of South Africa and the Third World Academy of Sciences. In 2001, she was awarded the Silver Medal of the South African Association of Botanists for research excellence and she went on to receive the Gold Medal from the Association in 2006. In 2004, she received the Department of Science and Technology’s Distinguished Woman Scientist Award for her consistent contributions to science over her entire career. Berjak was also nominated, unopposed, as President-elect of the International Society for Seed Science and continued to serve the Society over the last few years, in addition to being a Trustee of the Durban Botanical Gardens. Between 2006 and 2014 she went on to reach even greater heights receiving the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver), the highest honour granted by the President of South Africa. She held a National Research Foundation A rating, signifying world leadership in her field, and received the NRF President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. Her impact on the advancement of Botany in South Africa is further illustrated by the professional success of her postgraduate students, many of whom hold key positions in academia and industry.
Pat always asserted that her achievements resulted from the contributions of many scientists, especially her husband Professor Norman Pammenter.
Amidst all her scientific exploits, Pat pursued many other passions: the English language, classic cars, aerobatics, ballroom dancing, photography, detective novels, cooking, an unstinting devotion to all things feline and, most of all, Norman’s companionship.
Berjak’s considerable scientific prowess, pursuit of excellence and generosity of spirit leaves an indelible and inspirational mark on this University and the international botanical landscape.
- Professor Paula Watt, Dr Sershen Naidoo and Professor Norman Pammenter
Emeritus Professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Jeff Guy
Emeritus Professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Jeff Guy passed away in London on 15th December 2014 whilst on his way home after visiting family and friends and delivering a series of successful lectures about Bishop Colenso.
Professor Guy was also Research Fellow at Killie Campbell Collections. Campbell Collections was like a second home to Jeff as he spent most of his time conducting research there. He was also a prominent member of the Killie Campbell Collections Advisory Board.
Jeff Guy’s Memorial Service was held at Killie Campbell Gardens on Saturday, 24 January 2015. It was attended by many of those whose lives he touched including academics, former students and friends.
Jeff Guy was born in Pietermaritzburg 13 June 1940. He studied History at the University of Natal in the 1960s. As apartheid tightened its grip on the country, a number of friends were detained under the 1967 Terrorism Act, or went into hiding. Due to this intolerant and intolerable political climate Jeff Guy left South Africa for England in the late 60s. He worked as a school teacher in London and also enrolled for his PhD at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), studying under Shula Marks.
At the memorial, Guy’s daughter, Heli, gave an emotional tribute to her father.
‘He had ideas about books and articles, important themes he wanted to explore… he was so full life and irrepressible enthusiasm; a quality we all need to remember, and strive to nurture and preserve in ourselves. It is very hard to accept that my Daddy is not coming home. Our lives will be a much poorer place. But when I think about when and how this happened: after work success and validation, a lovely time reconnecting with family and friends, invigorated and looking forward to his return… then finally on the couch, sitting down, relaxing, letting go of stress and anxiety… I imagine calm. I picture peace.’
A message of condolence from Shula Marks was read by colleague and friend Professor Julie Parle from UKZN’s Historical Studies. Marks shared her memories of having Guy as one of her doctoral students and his insatiable appetite for knowledge and his inquiring mind citing that ‘he wrote with passion and compassion.’
His friend and UKZN Alumnus, Professor Mark Hunter of the University of Toronto spoke at the service stating that Guy stood as an icon for his restless passion for rigorous research. ‘He had faith that people could change the world. But he also cared deeply about the research institutions that could both reveal the horrors of colonialism and the opportunism of those who today make ahistorical calls on tradition.’
1971 Jeff married Naimi and returned to southern Africa, taking up a post as History Lecturer at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland on the Roma campus in Lesotho where he worked for 14 years (teaching many South African exiles including former and current cabinet ministers). His children Heli and Joe were born at Roma. While in Lesotho, Jeff published his doctoral thesis (doctorate was awarded 1975) as The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom. Other works include his celebrated study of Bishop Colenso, The Heretic, Remembering the Rebellion, The Zulu Uprising of 1906, Theophilus Shepstone and the Forging of Natal; African Autonomy and Settler Colonialism in the Making of Traditional Authority.
In the mid-80s Jeff took up a fellowship in Manchester, England, and then, on deciding to leave Lesotho accepted a post as a History Lecturer at the University of Trondheim in Norway.
In 1992 after the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC, Jeff returned to South Africa where he had been offered the Professorship of History at the former University of Natal, Durban. His enthusiasm to contribute to the building of a new South Africa never waned.