During the 1980s Leibowitz was part of the United Women’s Congress and the United Democratic Front, with a keen interest in research which included professional academic development, the scholarship of teaching and learning, language and academic literacy and social justice in higher education.
She was one of three teachers fired from Crystal Secondary School in 1980 by the then Department of Coloured Affairs triggering the student protests.
UJ vice-chancellor Tshilidzi Marwala said the university community was saddened by her passing. He expressed condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Leibowitz.
Rhodes University deputy vice-chancellor Chrissie Boughey paid tribute in a statement.
Maureen Robinson, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University, said that during the 1980s Leibowitz served on a range of committees and projects with other activists, many of whom remain in touch even today.
“In the last 15 years, her contribution to social justice has manifested in her immense contribution to the field of university teaching and learning.
“She led teaching and learning centres at the University of the Western Cape as well as Stellenbosch University, and was responsible for significant research and development projects aimed at supporting new lecturers and deepening the field of teaching and learning in higher education.
“It was particularly in the way she dealt with her field of study that attracted so many accolades.
“A humble manner underplayed a brilliant mind, ever able to shape and implement new ideas.”
South African political activist Farid Esack, a recipient of the President’s National Order of Luthuli, also paid tribute to Leibowitz.
He posted on his Facebook page: “Hamba kahle to an amazing comrade and colleague; Brenda, you served students and our people so well and you taught so many of us how to be good teachers.
"Thanks for a life well lived. You were a soldier in the struggle against apartheid and you refused to hang up your boots after it officially - only officially - ended.”
Struggle stalwart Charles Martin said: “Brenda was a comrade who was truly committed to a non-racial, non-sexist and free South Africa.
“But more importantly, she was committed to a free and equal society. She made her contribution to achieving our democracy in a quiet and humble way.”
Leibowitz’s former colleague Nasima Badsha said: “Brenda was a defiant and courageous teacher who will be remembered by many of her former pupils as an inspirational and brave leader in the school boycotts of the 1980s.
“She was also a veteran of the United Women’s Congress and the United Democratic Front.
“Brenda started her academic career at the Academic Development Centre at UWC and from those early days grew her lifelong passion for teaching and learning as a vehicle for the transformation of higher education.”