Posted on February 18, 2021

It is with immense sadness that we inform the university community about the death of our former Dean of Humanities, Professor Wouter Cornelis van Wyk who passed away on Monday, 15 February 2021.  He was 83, a week short of his 84th birthday. He was born on 23 February 1937.

Van Wyk was Dean of the Faculty of Humanities for 17 years, from 1983 until his retirement in 2000. He was an alumnus of UP, having completed both his Bachelor of Arts and his Bachelor of Theology, Master’s Degree in Arts and Doctorate in Theology at the University in the 1950s and 1960s. Following his studies at UP, he spent a period of further study at the University of Erlangen in Germany as the recipient of a bursary from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Prof van Wyk began his career as a junior lecturer in the Department of Semitic Languages in 1965. In 1971, he was promoted to Head of this Department.

Van Wyk was one of the very few South African scholars who could be regarded as a true Semitic Languages specialist in the classical sense of the word. He lectured Classical Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Ugaritic, Akkadian and Arabic to successive generations of students. As a part-time minister of religion, he illustrated to all students the practical value of his academic work.

His research led to his involvement with excavations of the ancient biblical city of Lachish and to contributions to the 1983 Afrikaans translation of the Bible. Van Wyk maintained a deep interest in his discipline during his tenure as Dean and was involved in lecturing despite the fact that this was challenging beyond the demands and responsibilities of his position.

Van Wyk will be fondly and affectionately remembered for his sincere interest in everyone who crossed his path, including his dedicated contributions as a former leader of the Faculty. He took many young academics under his wing, and even more important, provided them with opportunities to flourish in their fields of interest. He recognised and supported potential in emerging scholars and helped them to develop in their disciplines as internationally recognised academics in their own right. He was a sterling mentor to younger academics, some who still teach at several South African universities and abroad.

He will not only be remembered for his academic contributions, but especially for his sincere humane demeanour, his excellent intellect, his unflinching curiosity, and his firm belief in the Humanities and the unlimited potential of every human being.

The Faculty of Humanities and the University is saddened by Prof van Wyk’s passing, and we extend our condolences to his family, friends and former colleagues.

Professor Vasu Reddy

Dean: Faculty of Humanities

- Author Professor Vasu Reddy

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