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Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Retiring Deputy Vice-Chancellor leaves lasting legacy

GOODBYE: Prof Anthony Staak at his farewell dinner with current and former colleagues. GOODBYE: Prof Anthony Staak at his farewell dinner with current and former colleagues.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Prof Anthony Staak, is retiring from the institution after 36 years.

Staak has enjoyed a stellar academic career spanning from the time he was a top learner at South Peninsula High School to later having the distinction of being awarded both the coveted Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships. It was this academic prowess that first caught the attention of former Peninsula Technikon Rector Prof Brian Figaji who head-hunted him while Staak was completing the Rhodes scholarship in Oxford. “I am particularly proud because I actually recruited Staak. I called his mother and then contacted him in England. I told him 'Staak you have a job when you get home' and many years later this is the result,” said Figaji at a farewell dinner recently hosted for Staak.

Figaji also praised Staak for being selfless in his academic achievements because despite his earlier undergrad and post-grad qualifications in Engineering he opted to do a Masters in Economics to expand his world view. Staak later made another unconventional career choice when he was awarded the Fulbright scholarship and opted to do a Masters in the still relatively unknown area of Technology Transfer at MIT. “So it wasn’t about Anthony but it was about what he needed to do his job better and what would serve the institution,” he says.

CPUT Vice-Chancellor Dr Chris Nhlapo says Staak’s legacy is imprinted into the DNA of CPUT and that his foresight into intellectual property and policy meant the former Peninsula Technikon was ahead of its time. “Prof Staak understands exactly what we are trying to achieve here at CPUT which is reviving the dream of being the MIT of Africa and of course he speaks from experience having been a student there. Thank you very much Prof Staak, it is indeed sad to have someone of your stature leaving the team,” he said.

In his farewell speech Prof Staak had the crowd in stitches recalling how memo pads and typewriters were preferred to the first generation computers in the 1980s. He also reflected on Peninsula Technikon’s role in the anti-apartheid struggle of the time. “We refused to implement the quota system and accepted students from across the country and neighbouring states as well. In fact we battled to keep the police off our campus,” he said.

Staak, who joined Peninsula Technikon as the Head of Electrical Engineering Department in 1982 and later became the Dean in 1998 says he was always very proud to be part of the Engineering Faculty which spearheaded much of the innovation taking place at the institution - this included early internet connections and unique laboratory style learning spaces. “It was also quite unique at the time to have laboratories as classrooms because the norm at the time was office space, classroom space and laboratory space. We did everything in the labs.”

He is looking forward to indulging his passion for running and enjoying his three grandchildren.

Written by Lauren Kansley

Tel: +27 21 953 8646
Email: kansleyl@cput.ac.za

Liaises with the media and writes press releases about interesting developments at CPUT.