The Durban Alumnus Association

About the DAA Association

The Durban Alumnus Association has widened membership of the Association to include alumni as well as anyone who has been connected with the University in any way or simply has an interest in the University or the activities.

The activities arranged cover a wide range of interesting visits and talks and all take place in KwaZulu-Natal. The talks are held on the Howard College campus and the tours/outings are within the region.

Outings are arranged that members would not ordinarily do on their own, and perhaps the greatest advantage of the Association is the opportunity to interact with enthusiastic and knowledgeable members from a vast variety of backgrounds and interests. The cost of membership in 2017 is R50.00 per person – which simply covers postage of invitations.  If you would like to be included on the membership list, please contact Nomcebo Msweli by either emailing: or on telephone 031-260 2016 or complete the Membership Form.

We look forward to welcoming new members and receiving ideas on interesting events to arrange.


Chairman's Report 2016

Unfortunately my report for 2016 has to start off on a sombre note. During the course of the year we lost three stalwart members. The first to die on the 30 April 2016 was my old friend and colleague of some 37 years, Bob Youngleson. He regularly attended our meetings and his wife Anne has been on our committee for the last number of years. He was to be followed by Joan Law who died well into her 80’s and was therefore one of our older Alumni. She was a member of the committee for quite a number of years and always held the affairs of our University very close to her heart. The next person to die was Hugh Thompson on the 27 July 2016. Of course Hugh was our official Orator and he always thanked the speakers at the end of our meetings. He did it with gusto and verve and had a wonderful way of weaving into his vote of thanks appropriate references back to the talk which we had enjoyed. We extended to their families and friends our sincere condolences.

2016 started off with our Annual General Meeting which was held on the 22 February 2016. I myself was not present and it had to be chaired by Hugh Thompson. We were addressed by Robin Opperman who is a UKZN Alumnus and he is the creative director of Umcebo Designs. Robin was able to trace his history through the University and the fact that he had graduated with a Social Science degree and a Post Grad Diploma in Applied Social Science. He worked as a Maths teacher and decided that teaching was not for him and then he went into the Art field and has been able to create Umcebo Designs which are handmade artistic articles made from recycled or reclaimed materials.

That was followed by a talk by another alumnus namely Cecile Levin on the 18 April 2016. She gave a delightful address on the book that she had just published, A Piece of Cake. Cecile was able to do some marketing of her book which had delightful stories and a number of useful recipes at the end!  Our thanks go to Cecile.

On the 26 May 2016 we toured the Holocaust Museum down at the Jewish Club.  This was a very sobering experience because it highlighted the horrors that were inflicted on the Jewish people and went further than that because it showed the genocide is still a worldwide menace and specifically mentioned in the African context Rwanda and before that Bosnia. We were taken around by Maureen Caminsky and our thanks must go to Maureen for a highly informative tour of the Centre. What was unique to the Museum was the exact replica of the room in which Anne Frank was to hide from the Nazis in Holland. That was followed by a delicious lunch at the restaurant which adjoins the Museum.

From that we went on to something totally different and that was a talk by one of the youngest doctoral alumni of the University, Dr Craig Widdows on the 1 August 2016. This revolved around his research in his doctoral thesis which involved genet cats in urban areas and also included other small mammals which could be found in many gardens and especially in the Kloof/Pinetown area. I personally never met Dr Widdows before but as someone said when I enquired as to who he was: “just look for the young chap over there who does not have grey hair”!  Dr Widdows gave a very interesting address and it was very illuminating to see the audience participation because it was quite apparent that quite a number of our members who were present also have genet cats and other interesting creatures living either in their gardens or on their roofs.

The following meeting involved Mr Peter Adams of the famous Adams bookstore when he came to talk to us. Of course this resonates with all of us being Alumni of the University because at some stage or another we have had to approach Adams for some of the textbooks that we required for our various studies. It was interesting to note that the Adams bookstore was established 151 years ago and Peter is now the Managing Director as well as the third general bookseller. He is also an alumnus of the University. He did a B.Comm which he added to his BA and also studied Botany and History when he had time. He has been the mastermind behind growing the family business from one shop to several shops. A highly interesting and informative address and our thanks go to Peter Adams.

Members might recall that at the AGM on Monday, 16 February 2015 Dr Elsa Pooley gave a talk on “The practical use of South African plants for landscape, gardening and rehabilitation – with the Durban beachfront as the prime example.”

That address was enthusiastically received and Dr Pooley promised a walk around the beachfront so that we could see how her theory had translated into reality. This walk along the beachfront took place on Wednesday, 19 October 2016 and it was very informative to see the way in which the dunes have been rehabilitated and what plants were appropriate for the circumstances and how she planned the entire rehabilitation of the beachfront in time for the Soccer World Cup in 2010.  Our thanks go to Dr Pooley for a very interesting address. Thereafter many of us retired to Circus Circus for a splendid breakfast!

The last function of the year is the Christmas lunch held at the Durban Country Club.  We switched from the Durban Club for the first time last year and I think the general consensus was that the Country Club had done us proud. The main reason for the switch was simply because of parking issues. Particularly during December parking in the centre of town becomes something of a nightmare for those of us who thought we had left with plenty of time and then ended up scrabbling for parking on the top roof of the Royal Parking Garage. There was no such problem with the Durban Country Club and we are pleased to return having had a very happy experience the first time round.

There is one thing that I think should be mentioned and that is it will be noted from the remarks about the talk of Dr Craig Widdows that it was easy to identify him because he is a good many years younger than the rest of us. This does raise an important issue and that is continuity.  This report started with the sombre news of death of three stalwart members. The problem is that they have not been replaced and if we go on in the same vein in the future, it will spell long term problems for the Association. Younger generations have simply not shown an inclination to become involved with our affairs. I had three daughters going through the University and none of them have been involved with our activities although one can escape criticism because she resides in London! This is I believe a fact which we should bear in mind for the future.

Finally, I must thank members of the Committee for their stalwart work during the year. Nomcebo Msweli has been ever efficient and is always one jump ahead. Every time I phone to find out how things are going, everything has been arranged with her normal aplomb and with an eye for the finer detail. Rosemarie von der Meden has still been able to cater at our functions and we thank Rosemarie very sincerely. She says that she enjoys our company and of course it is a memorial for her husband Eric who was Chairman of the Association for many years. Also, I must thank Denis O’Leary. He has kept us solvent and it is very good to have someone with the finer points of finance at his fingertips. Also, Finn Christensen has been a tower of strength at all times.

Despite the sadness we experienced this year with the death of our stalwart members, it has nevertheless been an interesting year and I am sure that in 2017 we will go from strength to strength.

For more information on the Durban Alumni Association please contact Nomcebo Msweli on +27(0)31 260 2016 or

Robin Ralfe


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