Russel Botman, 60, died in his sleep on Friday night. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Cape Town - Tributes have continued to pour in for Hayman Russel Botman, rector and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University.

He is remembered as a much-loved academic and theologian who thought first of others and was deeply committed to transformation.

Botman, 60, died in his sleep on Friday night.

Chancellor of Stellenbosch University Johann Rubert said: “Stellenbosch University and South Africa have lost a person of great worth. We are going to miss him tremendously.”

Christo Viljoen, president of Convocation, said the university under Botman had “reached new heights of excellence and established itself as the leading research university”.

According to council chairman George Steyn: “Over the past few years, Stellenbosch University benefited from his visionary leadership which portrayed his philosophy that SU’s excellent research and teaching should make a difference in society.”

Botman was first appointed rector and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University in 2007 and was reappointed in 2012 for another five years.

He was born in Bloemfontein and graduated from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) with arts and theology degrees.

He was ordained and served as a Dutch Reformed Church minister before joining UWC in 1994 as a senior lecturer in practical theology.

In 2000, he joined Stellenbosch University and moved through its top ranks to become vice-rector of teaching two years later.

Just last week, Botman had made a presentation to the council and afterwards had said inclusivity at the university referred to “appreciation for the perspectives, experiences and contributions of all students, staff members and the various communities served by the university”.

President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to a “leading light” in higher education transformation who had been lost.

“On behalf of government and all our people, we wish to convey our deepest condolences to his family and the whole of the academic community.”

UWC rector and vice-chancellor Brian O’Connell said: “Russel was a gem and one of UWC’s greatest alumni. Our nation has lost an ethical leader. We will miss him.”

Botman was president of the SA Council of Churches between 2004 and 2007.

“Botman was a fine man and a significant influence, not only in theological circles but as a champion for socio-economic rights and the uplifting of the poor,” said Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, president of the council and presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

The chief operating officer, Leopoldt van Huyssteen, is to serve as acting rector until the executive committee of the council meets next month.

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Cape Times