Reunions held in 2010: Class of 1995 reunion
By: Louise Cooke
Marcus Brauer, Louise Cooke, Mary-Ann Davies, Michelle de Souza, Priya Gajjar, Vikesh Gajjar, Gavin Galloway, Sean Gottschalk, Colette Gunst, Terri Hen derson, Grant Joseph, David Knight, Di Lavies, Chris Leatt, Graeme Meintjes, Mike Meyer, Marisa Mezzabotta, Clothilde Oliphant, Zakiyya Omarjee, Riyana Osman, Devesh Patel, Ramesh Pillay, Kevin Rebe, Neil Smith, Susan Snyders, Mark Sonderup, John Stanfliet, Rosanne Symons, Mick van Binsbergen, Angel a van Koersveld, Rob Wicomb, Haidee Williams, Taryn Young, Bernice Zabow. UCT has not held many 15 year reunions in the past, and when we were about to cancel 4 weeks before due to lack of response (we had more old professors attending the cocktail party than old classmates at that stage!) we suspected why. However, with some pleading and cajoling, we convinced a reasonable number of 1995 graduates that it would be fun to get together and see what everyone was doing. The overwhelming consensus after the weekend of activities was that it was a very special and memorable occasion, and all who attended would certainly attend next time and try harder to convince other classmates to do the same.
As we have not graduated all that long ago, and many are occupied with families and with limited free time, with few people coming from far away, we opted to not have all the events offered by the UCT Alumni Office and just had three social opportunities for people to get together with no academic programme as such. Joan Tuff from the Alumni office was essentially the mastermind of the reunion, contacting everyone, arranging venues and catering, and Mark, Terri and myself assisted with contact tracing, begging and pleading and some minor housekeeping decisions.
The reunion was held over the weekend of 19-21 November 2010. On Friday night there was a cocktail party held in the very impressive new circular glass Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine building, between the old physiology lecture building and the cafeteria. We were greeted by a smiling Joan as well as name badges with our old student photos on! This was the first trigger to much merriment and laughter, closely followed by lots of cries of "you haven't changed" and genuine excitement at greeting old friends. We were joined by some of our previous lecturers: Professors Seggie, Benatar, Dent, Terblanche, Louw, and Forder; the current Dean, Prof Marian Jacobs; and JP van Niekerk, our Dean at the time and guest speaker. Each of the Professors said a few words, encouraging us in our careers, reminding us of the privilege we will always have of having trained in an institution of excellence, and reminiscing on their various reunions and the happy times had then. JP reflected on a lot of what was happening historically, locally and internationally, in 1995 and I suspect many of us were oblivious to much of what was happening as we enjoyed our student days and freedom.
As the wine flowed and stories were exchanged and the Reunion Booklet was scanned and read, the pieces were put together of what had happened to friends and colleagues. It is important to acknowledge those who really made the effort to come from afar - Neil Smith came all the way from Australia and is a paediatric emergency medicine specialist in Adelaide. Mick van Binsbergen, who is a radiologist in private practice, drove down from Joberg and Rosanne Symons from Durban (more on her later), whilst Zakiya Omarjee came from Namibia where she runs a very busy paediatric practice and does amazing work there. Achievement for flashiest car went to Chris Leatt (no surprise there) who has established his own company in Biomechanics. He arrived in a Maserati, much to the envy of the older professors. Largest family award went to Rosanne Simons who, after having 2 children, had an unexpected third pregnancy with identical triplets!!! Five children under 3 at one stage, and now still working fulltime as a GP/surgical assistant in Durban. She has had a challenging time and deserves enormous respect for what she has achieved, and making the effort to come to the reunion (she is apparently still on speaking terms with the friends she left her children with for the weekend!). Devesh Patel was the snappiest dresser, and has explored a lot of alternative medicine methods, but made the mistake of thinking he could keep up with Neil Smith after the cocktail party, underestimating what a hardened Aussie he has become. Devesh developed a mysterious "tummy bug" on Saturday which neither conventional nor alternative medicine could cure, preventing him from attending the dinner. Graeme Meintjes is the first to our knowledge to be made an Associate Professor, and he and his wife were amazing bringing both children (one a 5 month old) to the dinner on Saturday when their babysitter fell through! Mark Sonderup, of course, gets the prize for the most political voice (and much gratitude to him for those of us still in the State sector in SA for his negotiations on the OSD!!)
It was striking how many of the class chose certain specialities - Paediatrics was a common speciality, as was Public Health and Radiology with not too many surgeons amongst us. It seems that about two thirds of the 1995 graduates remain in South Africa with at least 42 overseas. Of the 107 in the country, only 34 attended the reunion so we will definitely need to improve that next time!
The second event was dinner at Smuts Hall on the Saturday night. Grant Joseph and Dave Knight almost managed to get their timing perfect and miss the picture but we captured them in time. It really was a fun evening in the lovely setting of old main campus with lots of time to follow through on the conversations of the night before, and to do some dancing. Prof Saunders shared some important words on ethical practice and the pharmaceutical industry and his experiences as vice-chancellor during times of great change. At one stage we did have to go and remind the DJ that we weren't actually that old and we would recognise music produced in the last 5 years! They had to chase us out in the end - lots of slick moves on the dance floor, especially from Clothilde's husband.
The last event was meant to be a family picnic at Kirstenbosch on Sunday morning but, true to style, Cape Town decided to have a foul wet and blustery cold front (at the end of November!!) so we relocated to the restaurant where we spent a very pleasant morning meeting some of the offspring and discussing common joys and challenges. It was a relaxed and easy end to a very pleasant weekend of catching up and reminiscing. Many people couldn't make all of the events but there was enough overlap to touch base and realise that time is quite a leveler and most of us find ourselves in similar positions socially and in our careers, which was certainly not the case 21 years ago when we started.
We hope that this report will be a reminder for those who were there, and allow those who couldn't attend get an idea of what people are doing, and also encourage them to try to attend when we meet again in 2020 for the 25 year reunion. Perhaps the cries of "you haven't changed" will sadly be less true then!!