Reunion roundup

Reunions held in 2004: Class of 1954

9 December 2004

A summary by By Hackey Edelstein


Len Anstey, Simmy Bank, Ephraim Benjamin, Eddie Berman, Chris Blignaut, Petrus Botha, Ian Bouchier, Malcolm Bow ie, George Boyes, FW Brönn, Garron Caine, Danny Danilewitz, George Decker, Victor Dubowitz, Hackey Edelstein, Peter Edington, Joc Forsyth, Sue Greyling, Sid Hart-Davis, Peter Horrigan, Geoff Howes, Ian Huskisson, Yehuda Kaplan, Philip Lanzkowsky, Peter Le Riche, Hans Loock, Lampy Maresky, Maxwe ll Moss, Nic Nel, Leslie Peters, George Pillay, Harold Robertson, Mike Rorke, Eric Rosen, Gerry Rosendorff, Mossie Silbert, David Stein, Winifred van der Ross, Francois van Greunen, John Williamson

(Click on the image to see a large version.)

50 years on, it was indeed a pleasure and a privilege to meet with ones classmates again. Whilst the main emphasis of the reunion was to have contact with those of one's own class, this year many of the scheduled events occurred in parallel with that of the members of the 40-year reunion, allowing for an even further extension of contact with erstwhile colleagues.


The opening programme on Thursday 9th December 2004 was the registration and Dean's welcoming cocktail party at the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine building at Medical School (IIDMM). We were entertained by members of the UCT College of Music's opera singers. Prof Ralph Kirsch, Head of the Department of Medicine, in the absence of the Dean, addressed both classes. A special reference, by the way of an apology, was made to the fact that, through the process of submission and the acceptance of the imposed policy by the government of the day, regrettably little was achieved in reversing the policy of discrimination that the students of colour were subjected to at that time.

A special feature of the opening programme was the gift of a shopping bag, which contained various articles donated by pharmaceutical firms, given to each graduate (alarm clocks, CD holders, coffee peculators, pens, bottles of distilled water and a peak cap with "50 year UCT Medical Class Reunion (1954-2004)" embossed on each).

Tour of the Faculty

On Friday, 10th December, we assembled for coffee in the upstairs spiral staircase area of the Barnard Fuller Building at Medical School. Ample time was available for circulating amongst our colleagues and renewing old acquaintances. The tour of the new Student Learning Centre was a real eye-opener. The use of individual computers with the utilisation of teaching disks requiring students to give feedbacks in addition to the utilisation of interactive group discussions with their tutors, has totally revolutionised the teaching methods in the early years of the medical curriculum. The new process of learning was explained to us by Dr Laurie Kellaway.

For many of our colleagues the visit to the Christiaan Barnard Transplant Museum at Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) was a totally new experience. Walking through the long corridor named "Hospital Street" in the new GSH was also an experience which was so different from the memories associated with the old hospital in which we received our clinical training. A delicious finger lunch was served in the Tafelberg Room of the GSH.


What was certainly a highlight of the whole reunion, was the introduction of the Regraduation ceremony, which was instituted for the first time this year. Dressing in the MBChB gowns in the Ben Beinert Room of the Students Union Building prior to entering the majestic and imposing Jameson Hall, was truly an exhilarating experience. With family and friends sitting in the wings, the entry of the Academic Procession, accompanied by the singing of Gaudeamus, brought back haunting memories of the graduation process 50 years before. Regrettably, due to the passage of time, the faces in the Academic Procession were all new and virtually unknown to the "out of town" colleagues. However, we were nevertheless able to imagine the presence of our old and revered Professors - Frankie Forman, John Brock, Jannie Louw, James Louw, Papie Erasmus and even Maxie Drennan. What a debt of gratitude we owed to them and other teachers now long departed.

We were addressed by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, the Dean, Professor Nicky Padayachee, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl De La Rey and Emeritus Professor JP van Niekerk. A special medal from UCT celebrating its 175-year anniversary, was given to each Regraduate. The very full second day terminated with a braai in the evening where we met at the IIDMM building at Medical School. Once again, we were given the opportunity to mix with our colleagues and renew long lost links.

Academic Programme

The 3rd day of our reunion, Saturday 11 December, was devoted to our academic programme. Five presentations, all of a high standard, were given. An extremely interesting presentation of "Forty Years in the Bush Hospital in Malawi" was given by Chris Blignaut. Photos of most bizarre pathologies were shown, with remarkable treatment given by him with only very basic facilities available. The presentation by Simmy Bank on "The scope of things to come" was an interesting and encouraging look into the future of Gastro-Enterological Investigations. "Ramblings of a Country Boy" by Victor Dubowitz took one through the years, beginning in Beaufort West, through all his tours to various cities and countries during his years of academic progress and research into Neuromuscular Disorders, a subject in which he has become a world authority. His return to his roots in Beaufort West was the culmination of his talk. A truly academic presentation of "Laboratory Surveillance as a tool in Public Health" was presented by Joc Forsyth. Tracing the source of an infection with the potential for becoming a serious public health hazard, was described in a most professional manner. The love which Mossie Silbert has for Latin, was used as a background for the talk entitled "Audi Alteram Partem" (a brief review of patient-centredness). Referring to his role model, his late uncle Frank Forman, Mossie emphasised the importance of listening to one's patients, an art which is rapidly dwindling into obscurity in this present day and age.

In the second half of the morning, each colleague was offered 3-5 minutes to give a short overview of his career in the past 50 years. As could be expected, such a brief analysis extending over half a century, was extremely difficult. The presentations were most interesting and it was quite enlightening to hear what some of our classmates had achieved during their years in practice.

Gala Dinner

That night, the Gala Dinner, held at the Alphen Hotel, Constantia, was a resounding success. Each of the ladies was presented with a corsage donated by Hackey. The class photograph taken on the steps of the Alphen Hotel gardens, was a graceful, relaxed and friendly representation of the good vibes that existed between the members of the group. The meal was tasty and the alcoholic and other spirit was excellent, with Hackey having proposed a toast to the Class of 1954 and Ian Huskisson responding on behalf of the class. During his address, Hackey apologised for and made reference to the meagre efforts the MSC of the day was able to make to overcome some of the unacceptable apartheid practices of that time. How embarrassing it was for all of us when the students of colour were asked to leave the E-floor Lecture Theatre as a white patient was being used for clinical demonstration. It needs to be put on record that, as a result of MSC's representations to the Dean of the day, no white patients were subsequently used for clinical demonstrations, making it unnecessary for the loathsome practice of expecting students of colour to leave the lecture theatre.

Visit to Robben Island

The final event of the reunion was the visit to Robben Island on Sunday morning. This event is always destined to be an emotional experience, coupled with admiration for those who survived the many years of physical insult and hardship. Particularly stirring was the respect one felt for our Madiba and admiration for the marvellous spirit of reconciliation showed after his release and in his subsequent term as President. Parting from one another on our return to the Mainland, was very sombre and sad, with only the prospect of possibly meeting again in 5 years time being something to aspire to.

In conclusion

For our classmates, some statistics: Of the 126 students in our year (1954) there were only 12 female students of which 5 are deceased and 2 attended the reunion. 40 classmates attended the reunion. 35 are known to be deceased, 25 never replied to our circulars, 16 replied but they were unable or unwilling to attend and 10 classmates were "lost" - meaning that we had no contact with them and they did not feature on our database. 9 classmates came from overseas of which 5 are Professors. 2 classmates were local Professors.

Finally, as always happens each year, the success of these reunions is due to the sterling efforts and organisational expertise of our Alumni Officer in the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences, Joan Tuff. She was ever available, obliging and reliable. Thanks Joan. May you continue with your good performances for many years to come. We salute you!