Former rector honoured for role at UWC

Retired University of the Western Cape Professor Henry Bredenkamp and Dr Franklin Sonn, who was rector of the Peninsula Technikon in 1978. Pictures: Jeffrey Abrahams

The University of the Western (UWC) and the City of Cape Town hosted a memorial service in honour of the life of Professor Richard van der Ross who passed away in December.

Family, friends, academics and many who loved and respected the university’s former rector came to pay their respects on Thursday March 22.

Dr Franklin Sonn, who was rector of the Peninsula Technikon in 1978, described Professsor Van der Ross as a truly great man who loved people.

“He was a people’s person. I met him when I was 14 years old, and he became my mentor. So, we celebrate his legacy by taking a page out of his book and through us he will live forever,” said Dr Sonn.

UWC rector and vice-chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius, said: “We are here to think about his life, roles, campaigns and his experiences he had in his 96 years — it is a life worth celebrating,” he said.

“I remember as a student, many of us could not afford to travel home during the holidays and had to squat in our residences — Professor Van der Ross knew about this but did not have us removed. Behind his intimidating presence and stern face was a passionate man who knew the struggle of poor students and understood where we came from.”

Professor Pretorius said Professor Van der Ross’ anti-apartheid “Hek Toe” march set the tone for the university to be known as a defender of freedom in the future.

His daughter Freda Brock said the main hall — the venue for the memorial service — was her father’s favourite place.

“Here he was able to live himself out in advancing education and social change. He was also humble and enormously proud to be made a Freeman of the City.”