Professor Alexander Brown (1928-1932)
Brown was born in Scotland, educated at Edinburgh and Cambridge of part of that wave of Scots who joined the staff of the South African College in 1903, becoming Professor of Applied Mathematics at the age of 27. By the time he died in 1947 he had over 40 years’ service at UCT and was hailed as a “university statesman”. His is one of the four faces depicted on the urns next to Jameson Hall steps. He served as Warden of College House from 1922 but was “called to the other place” when Men’s Residence opened on the new campus in 1928. Stern but fair, he was popular and appealingly eccentric.
Professor John Smeath-Thomas (1933-1937)
The Liverpudlian was appointed Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at UCT in 1923 until he was appointed Master of Rhodes University College in Grahamstown in 1938. He could not fill the popular shoes of Brown and was something of a martinet often at odds with the House principally over issues of initiation and food. The food strike of 1936 even made the local press when he expressed his disappointment in “ungentlemanliness” when the House refused to apologise to him. His attempt to ban the practice of initiation was a long and bitter struggle which was ultimately unsuccessful.
Professor Theodore le Roux (1938-1948)
The son of Graaff-Rienett was a classicist educated at Victoria College (Stellenbosch University), South African College (UCT), Amsterdam and Oxford. He joined the staff in 1917 lecturing Latin and became Professor of Greek in 1920 until his death in 1948. It is difficult to find a memory of Theo, as he was known, that is not generous and happy. He was not a fan of initiation and deplored physical violence. He was a formidable Latinist and a superb raconteur with a gift for the exaggerated and often apocryphal anecdote. Typical, was his ruling on alcohol in 1938 : “Every man is free to imbibe such quantities of strong refreshment as he feels necessary, but should his conduct prove objectionable to the House, he will be fined … and asked to leave the House should it occur a third time. Men, if drunk, must behave as gentlemen”.
Professor Duncan McMillan MC (1948)
The interregnum at short notice and in a time of crisis was typical of “Drunken Duncan” as he was untruthfully but affectionately known. Glasgow qualified, he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering and Automobilism in 1910. He had a very good war seeing service throughout Central and Southern Africa emerging in 1918 with an MC and rank of Major. Soon after he became Professor until he retired in 1954. His extra mural lectures on the motor car brought people in their thousands to UCT.
John Buchanan-Clark (1949-1954)
A SACS Rhodes Scholar, he read History at Balliol and joined up right at the end of World War I. He suffered from shell shock throughout his life. He taught Classics at Wits before becoming Director of European Education in Northern Rhodesia from 1927 for over 20 years. He took a lectureship in history at UCT in 1949 and became the fifth Warden of Men’s Residence. He was largely responsible for the design of the garden at the Wardens Lodge and engineered the name change to Smuts Hall. Never very well and highly strung, he was not always a popular Warden and died in harness in the Warden’s Lodge in 1954.
Professor George Hamilton Menzies (1955-1975)
Membership of the University Senate for 40 years is rare but possible if you join the staff at 23. Appointed Professor of Land Surveying in 1946, George also served as Dean of Engineering for four terms, 33 consecutive years as external examiner to Wits and the first Warden of Driekoppen (now Kopano) in 1953. In two decades he saw an avalanche of change at Smuts Hall spanning the eras of formal dining and self-service, monastic seclusion and agitation for gender integration, initiation to “Freshers’ Week”. His outstanding qualities were an insistence on fair play and an ability to get to the point in sensible, straightforward English. He bequeathed The George Menzies Prize for an annual award to a Smuts Hall man for excellence in academic, porting or extra-mural achievement.
Professor Owen Lewis (1976-)
Experience of Residence life in Belfast, Northern Ireland, allowed Owen Lewis to take up the reins with easy confidence. Durban-born, he was educated at the University of Natal and the University of London. He became Harry Bolus Professor of Botany at UCT in 1972.
The biographies of the 4 most recent wardens, listed below, are currently being collated.
Professor Leon Kritzinger
Professor Danie Visser
Professor Robert Tait