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12 March 2018
Celebrating the life of the late Prof van der Ross

Celebrating the life of the late Prof van der Ross

The University of the Western Cape will pay respect to the life and contributions of Professor Richard van der Ross at his Memorial Service at UWC on Thursday, 22 March 2018.

We invite you to attend this special memorial service. If you wish to attend, please send an email to Melody Williams.

Richard Ernest “Dick” van der Ross was born in Plumstead, Cape Town on 17 November 1921, to parents who were both teachers - no doubt partly why he was such a fervent believer in the power of education to change lives.

He will be remembered for his role as a social rights and political activist, a distinguished educator and historian, and a man who fought to open the doors of learning to all, as the first black Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

A naturally civil, sensible and compassionate man, Prof Van der Ross was UWC’s Vice-Chancellor during the Soweto Uprising in June 1976, and oversaw UWC’s transition from being a College of the University of South Africa to a fully autonomous university in 1984. Preaching the virtues of hard work, humane values and reasoned discussion, he demonstrated his moral courage in promoting those values even at a time of immense political upheaval and violence by the apartheid police. He was often seen in the midst of confrontations between students and police.

In a graduation speech in 1984, Prof van der Ross reflected on the University’s new autonomy, saying: “I shall not presume to judge, and the evidence will be those students who have passed through the University of the Western Cape.”

One of those students would be Jakes Gerwel, his successor, who would help complete the University’s transition to the “intellectual home of the left”.

Van der Ross's tenure as rector saw the University navigate a period of great political turmoil and come out stronger for it, and graduate a number of South Africans who would rise to prominence, including Prof Gerwel.

While maintaining a lifelong interest in the history of the coloured communities of South Africa, Prof van der Ross held the powerful belief that the country’s diversity was one of its greatest strengths, especially with regards to higher education. He championed the idea of UWC as a “University of the Working Class”, and as an institution for all that would transform lives - and ultimately, society - through education.

The University of the Western Cape, in conjunction with the City of Cape Town, will host this memorial service to celebrate the life and times of Prof Van der Ross.

Date:Thursday, 22 March 2018

Time: 12h30 - 14h00 (Guests to be seated by 12h15)

Venue: Main Hall, University of the Western Cape, Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville

RSVP: Melody Williams at: by 16 March 2018.