Reunion roundup

Reunions held in 2005: Class of 1980

December 2005


Seham Abrahams, Peter Barron, Brian Berger, Nils Bergman, Susan Bingham, Gavin Bingham, Ellen Bolding, Graham Bresick, Richard Brink, Tracy Brito, Rica Bukmuz, Nas ser Cader, JAB Cambell, Adrian Cole, Jon Cornell, Rob Dyer, William Earl, John Edington, Robert Fraser, Anne Halland, John Hedden, Mike Hignett, Gary Maartens, Gunilla Nordesjo, Dennis Kavalsky, Sayeeda Khan, Mohammed Laher, Eddy Lee Pan, Jeff Li Green, James Loock, Eugene Marais, Nigel Mathews, Stu art Mathews, Phil Matley, Norman Miller, Hanif Omar, Maeve O'Regan, Chris Pearse, Mimi Vermeulen, Barry Rossouw, Julia Shires, Charles Slater, Clive Strauss, Michele Tameris, Rory Taylor, Jenny Thomas, Simon Tordoff, John Turner, Nic van Gysen, Martin Van Lierde, Roger Vogel, Colin Wallis, Judy Whittaker, Stuart Whittaker, John Woolley

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

The Class of 1980 met in Cape Town during the weekend of 9-11 December 2005 to celebrate 25 years since graduation. The impetus for this reunion started way back in April of 2004, when an email list was compiled by Jonathan Maskin and Ellen Bolding. Camaraderie grew as messages and news started pouring in. This email list culminated in two reunions: the first in July 2005 in the Forest of Arden, near Birmingham (United Kingdom), organised by Stef Oosthuysen, Daniel Reiff and Ivan Brenkel, and attended by 20 classmates; the second - the official reunion - in Cape Town under the expert guidance of the UCT alumni and Joan Tuff. A Cape Town Committee of Ellen Bolding, Eddy Lee Pan, Charles Slater and Judy Whittaker assisted Joan with the process.

We were pleased at the attendance in Cape Town (57 classmates attended at least one of the organised events), and amazed at the efforts of all those who came from as far afield as Canada, the USA, UK, Sweden and Australasia. Without a doubt, this was a special and memorable weekend, and, in the words of Tracy Brito: "... rated up there with all of the most momentous of life's events".

We met at the Barnard Fuller on the Friday, and the excitement was tangible. The noise level rose to a crescendo as we hugged and laughed and commented on receding hairlines and gravity's effect on the body! All too quickly we were called to order, and the first of our guides for the morning, Charles Slater, took us on a trip down memory lane, and introduced us to the concepts of OBE and PBL and various other incomprehensible abbreviations. He showed us the changes at the Medical School, both physical and educational, and allowed us to breathe in the unforgettable aroma of the dissection room one more time. Next up was Eddy Lee Pan, who guided us expertly through both the old (as we remembered) GSH and the new hospital. Most fascinating was the Heart Transplant Museum, and many of us remembered our first exposure to surgery, and the volatile Barnard brothers in these same theatres. After being suitably impressed by the new cardiology wards, and Lionel Opie's encouraging comments that we certainly looked a lot better than his Class of 1955, who were also having their reunion this year, we were treated to a delicious lunch in the Tafelberg Room.

The evening's event was a cocktail party in the new Wolfson Pavilion, an impressive modern glass building, within the historical Medical School. David Dent, the Acting Dean, opened the occasion, with very kind words about our class and their outstanding achievements, from the Professors upwards! He reminded us that we were the last year of the old 6-year curriculum, and remarked that the demographics of the present medical students are diametrically opposite from our White Male dominated year.

Herman de Groot, our erstwhile Associate Professor of Gynaecology, addressed us thereafter, and commented on how nice it was to see so many of his old houseboys and girls, particularly as several of them had either been his bosses, or were now his boss! His Ode to the Class of 1980 is included at the end.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of this weekend was the "academic meeting", which some of us attended with a degree of reluctance at 8.00 am on a Saturday morning! What transpired was a rare and special event, which, in the words of many: "... made me proud to be a member of the class of 1980". The breadth, scope and quality of the presentations was quite awe-inspiring. The topics were incredibly diverse, and 12 excellent presentations had us spellbound. Adrian Cole's experiences of rural practice in Stutterheim had us in stitches yet, at the same time, brought tears to our eyes. Phil Matley's historical exposé of Vascular Surgery and one man's dogged fortitude and brilliance highlighted the world-renowned excellence of many of the UCT alumni, both past and present. Brian Berger's compassionate handling of the last hours of caring made many of us realise why we had done medicine in the first place. So the list goes on: Nils Bergman's Kangaroo Mothers; HIV and TB by international expert Gary Maartens; The New Curriculum a la Charles Slater; Anne Halland's eloquent "Good News for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers"; Michelle Tameris' trials and tribulations of Community-based HIV Research; Stuart Whittaker's exposé of South African Hospitals and his quest for Quality; Eugene Marais' light headedness in Light Aircraft, and a sortie into the Amazon and the Galapagos with Nigel Matthews. We ended with Will Earl's hilarious video renditions of the "Loser's and Winners" of SA (Medical) Politics!

I was not alone in wishing that the presentations would go on and on, but a trip to Robben Island was organised for the afternoon, and a windswept group braved the waves to return just in time for our gala dinner, which was held at the Radisson Hotel at the Waterfront. A colourful, relaxed group were whisked outside for our "official" photo. It took some tree pruning and rearranging of the short and tall to squeeze us all in. John Edington beat his way to the front of the scrum, and resolutely sat in the front row. Fortunately the delays allowed our latecomers, Jeff Li Green and Mimi Roberts (Vermeulen), to arrive and be shoehorned into the photo. Malcolm Rivett sadly did not arrive at all, as he thought it was the following weekend!

After dinner Ellen called us to order, and brought our Class Rep, Michelle Tameris, to the podium. Michelle hit the right note, combining humour with poignancy, and reminded us that we owed an apology to those in our year (the silent minority) who had suffered the injustices of Apartheid. We were privileged that so many of these same colleagues were with us over the weekend. We thank you and salute you: Hanif Omar, Mohammed Laher, Nasser Cader, Graham Bresick, Seham Abrahams and Sayeeda Khan. It was also a time to remember those of our class who had sadly passed away in the intervening years: Leon Marais, Ant Hutton and Wolfie Friedlander.

Michelle also gave us the "stats": South Africans, the Capetonians in particular, still made up the majority of the class. The UK, Canada, USA, Australasia and Europe had, however, now - sadly - become home to very nearly half of the class.

With Michelle's Springfield wines flowing, the memories also came flooding back, and one by one many of the class stood up and related their memories. Colin Wallis had us in hysterics with his story of "Louis Trichard and Piet Retief", and Richard Brink told of his "blind date" with Gunilla Nordesjo and their trip to "Equus"! John Edington relayed the best of the Forest of Arden reminiscences, including Steff's "tickling the vulva/uvula"! There were many other stories but an overriding theme was how sad it was that it had taken 25 years to get to know so many of our classmates, and what great people they had become. The evening drew to a close well after midnight, with Gavin Bingham serenading us on his flute and saxophone. It was a fitting end to a thoroughly memorable evening.

Sunday, a warm and balmy day, was spent in Kirstenbosch with a leisurely and interesting guided tour for the intrepid remaining few, followed by a light lunch in the restaurant. As we said our final good-byes, the main question was: "When is the next reunion going to be, as this was such a worthwhile experience?" Maeve O'Regan encouraged all those who had missed this one to start planning now for 2010 ... especially her tut group! Tracy reiterated that "It was one of the most meaningful weekends of my life". Nils spoke of "A giant puzzle, which came together to make a most impressive picture"; James Loock summed it up with the following: "Most special was the unbelievable warmth and closeness and to discover, for the first time, how nice my classmates really are!"

Thank you to those who travelled long distances to be in Cape Town to celebrate this anniversary. Finally, thank you Joan Tuff for your unflagging enthusiasm and for co-ordinating this weekend so efficiently.

Salute to the great class of '80
In medicine they are ever so weighty
They're always rushing around
They hardly ever touch ground
Yes, salute to the Great Class of '80!