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22 July 2022
The house that Jakes built
It was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments. Four years in the making, the excitement was palpable on campus and among staff tasked with organising the renaming ceremony on Thursday, 21 July, of the University of the Western Cape’s Main Hall. 
Sandra Prinsloo delivers a tribute

Now known as the Jakes Gerwel Hall, the Hall is a full-circle representation of every UWC graduate’s time at the institution: it’s the first place they encounter when they arrive for orientation and also where they’ll graduate and wave goodbye to campus life. The event was livestreamed to enable alumni and friends across the world to dip into the feed.

It was only fitting that this very important space should be renamed after the late Professor Gerwel. The legendary Prof Gerwel had a decades-long relationship with UWC, a relationship so long and celebrated that it’s hard to think about one without remembering ties to the other. 

Under the glare of the media’s cameras, a who’s who of academia and society gathered in the Jakes Gerwel Hall for the renaming event. Among those in attendance were celebrated actress, Sandra Prinsloo, acclaimed poet and academic, Prof Antjie Krog, and members of the Gerwel family.

Everywhere one turned, people were engaged in conversations about the late Prof. He wore many hats – student, lecturer, rector, anti-apartheid stalwart – and was variously described as a planner, organiser, intellectual, troubleshooter, revolutionary, iconic leader. Perhaps one speaker described him best, as “a man undaunted by the upheaval of our times”.

Phoebe Gerwel, the widow of the late revolutionary, helped unveil the plaque on permanent display outside the Jakes Gerwel Hall (pictured). 

Chorus, the award-winning Cape Town orchestra, dazzled on stage and their incredible performances earned a number of standing ovations. 
An engaging panel discussion focused on important everyday issues facing South Africans that would undoubtedly have absorbed Prof Gerwel, including poverty, inequality, non-racialism, leadership and the worrying spike in violent crime.

UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tyrone Pretorius, described the renaming of the Hall as “a vital act of acknowledgement”.

The renamed building is not merely a celebration of his visionary leadership of the institution, but an acknowledgement of Prof Gerwel’s immense contribution to UWC’s growth as a centre of academic excellence.

As Prof Pretorius generously and aptly put it: “This is the house that Jakes built.”

For more images of the Jakes Gerwel Hall renaming ceremony (all by Ruvan Boshoff/UWC Media), see the Gallery below: