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Faculty of Humanities

Prof Johan Bergh retired

By Prof Fransjohan Pretorius

Posted on 25 January 2012

Too many achievements to mention. This is the feeling one gets when one looks back on the productive career of Prof Johan Bergh, who retired as head of the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies on 31 December 2011 after 26 years in the post.

He was the longest serving head the Department has had in a line of equally outstanding predecessors such as Leo Fouché, ID Bosman, AN Pelzer, FJ du Toit Spies and FA van Jaarsveld.

Members of his department believe theirs is the happiest department on campus and the happiest history department in the country, precisely because of Prof Bergh's exceptional competence as administrator and academic and also because of his common humanity and modesty.

This alumnus of the University of Stellenbosch and the University of South Africa has contributed to the academic world eight books as author and/or editor as well as numerous articles in accredited journals.

The number and quality of research awards that have been bestowed on him are really amazing – inter alia by the Oppenheimer Foundation, the LW Hiemstra Trust, the Rupert Education Foundation, Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds, and the Mellon Foundation. In 2006, the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns awarded him a medal of honour for his work to promote history.

Ten doctoral and numerous MA graduates gratefully remember his good supervision, while the Historical Association of South Africa (1986-2011) and the South African Historical Society (1995-1997) thrived under his dynamic chairmanship/presidency.

The Faculty of Humanities also benefited from his outstanding and unselfish service, inter alia as chairperson of the School of Social Sciences (2004-2008), chairperson of the School of Historic Sciences and Art (1998-1999), and member of the Faculty's Executive Committee (2004-2008). His capable leadership and diplomatic nature also saw to it that he acted as head in the Departments of Sociology and Philosophy.

Many early-bird colleagues would see Prof Bergh walking to the University every morning before seven, and those working late would see him returning home between five and six in the afternoon. The man simply has an insatiable appetite for work! And the door to his office always was literally open for his colleagues. As one colleague used to remark: "If you have a problem with Johan Bergh, look at yourself for the cause of the problem."

He certainly deserves some rest, but this is not for him. He is still on campus, working on two research projects with Prof Ian Phimister of Sheffield University, namely “The making of modern South Africa” and a publication of sources of the correspondence and speeches by Pres Paul Kruger. Fortunately, he has always enjoyed the wonderful support of his wife, Annemarie, and their three children.

We are going to miss him!

Fransjohan Pretorius



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