‘Son of Kimberley’ comes home.
A “son of Kimberley”, Professor Andrew Crouch, has returned home to officially take up the position of Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Sol Plaatje University from Wednesday, 1 April 2020.
“We look forward to his leadership at this critical stage of the University’s development. Professor Crouch has articulated a succinct five-point focus plan on taking forward the Sol Plaatje University project.
“We are pleased to have this son of Kimberley back in his home city and in the Northern Cape. We know that he will place great emphasis on the importance of engagement, partnerships and fostering sound relationships with all Sol Plaatje University stakeholders and surrounding communities,” Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, Chair of the SPU Council, said.
His early year firmly rooted in Kimberley, Prof Crouch was born at the Kimberley Hospital to Jacob and Louisa Crouch, and was one of nine siblings.
‘My father was a smallholding farmer in Ronaldsvlei until 1968 when the family was displaced due to the Group Areas Act and my mother was a housewife her whole life.”
In 1968, the family moved to Homestead from Ronaldsvlei, where his father started work as a builder.
Crouch attended primary school at the Ronaldsvlei Primary School until the family was displaced, after which he went to Beacon Primary School in Colville, and then to Bultfontein Secondary School (the old William Pescod Building where the Sol Plaatje University now stands).
He finished Std 6 (grade 8) at Bultfontein, then moved to the new William Pescod High School in Floors where he matriculated in 1975.
An illustrious class, his fellow matriculants include the political activist Benny Alexander (Khoisan X), two medical doctors, Dr Barham Bavasah and Dr Kayleen Kow and Angela Demas, a Senior Education Specialist in the Education Global Engagement and Knowledge Unit at the World Bank.
A keen cyclist, Crouch, together with his older brother, represented Griqualand West in cycling.
“I won medals at the then South African Cycling Association Cycling Championships in both track and field events (taking home a silver medal in the 40km SA Juniors and silver in the Junior Track Team Pursuit).”
He continued cycling and also represented the University of the Western Cape as a junior cyclist.
“I have fond memories of Kimberley … cycling in the midst of a highveld thunderstorm, gazing up at the night sky and seeing the vastness of the galaxy, Sunday rides to Langleg Resort, Barkly West and Modderriver. Also the smell of the baked bread of my mother, the taste of the vetkoek and mince curry she made and the closeness of a large family. The openness of the landscape allowed me to dream and to imagine.”
He left Kimberley at the start of 1976 to study in Cape Town, at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
“Because of my matric marks, I was awarded the Barney Barnato Scholarship. This scholarship, together with the assistance of my family, enabled me to complete my studies at UWC. I also worked during the holidays to further support my accommodation at the boarding house I stayed at in Bellville.”
Crouch initially enrolled for Dentistry, but the 1976 student protests made him rethink what he wanted to do.
“Physical Science and Mathematics came naturally to me and I eventually graduated with a BSc with Chemistry and Biochemistry as majors. I continued with my studies on a part time basis whilst working and completed a BSc Honours in Chemistry at UWC.”
After saving enough money, and with the assistance of a few benefactors, he departed for Canada and eventually completed a PhD in Chemistry at Concordia University in Montreal in 1987.
“In my final two years of PhD study, I was one of only a few SA students who received a scholarship for overseas studies from the then Foundation for Research Development.”
During this time, Crouch married his wife, Lynnette and she joined him for a while in Canada.
“We returned in 1987 and I took up a position as Lecturer at the Peninsula Technikon in Bellville, Cape Town.”
The couple have three children (two daughters and a son) and, as a family, they travelled to Kimberley regularly to visit the family and his aging parents, sometimes five to six times a year.
“Since the death of my parents some of my siblings moved to other parts of the country, but three sisters and two brothers (all retired) still live in Kimberley with their families.”
Following several years at the Peninsula Technikon, Crouch was promoted to Senior Lecturer.
“After the death of my ex professor at UWC, I was appointed as Professor in Chemistry at UWC in 1992 and later became the Head of Department of Chemistry at UWC.”
He left UWC in 1998 to become Professor of Chemistry at Stellenbosch University.
“I was the only full professor of colour in the Science Faculty for 10 years before the next senior appointment of a person of colour in that faculty.”
He was also appointed as Associate Dean in the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Stellenbosch during his 10 years at Stellenbosch.
“I was then recruited by Wits University to become the Dean of Science at Wits.”
After four years he was promoted to Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, a role he fulfilled for seven years.
“During this time I also served as the Vice Principal of Wits for five years.”
Crouch pointed out that the Vice Principal is responsible for the day to day running of the university. ”I therefore feel adequately prepared to serve Sol Plaatje University as the second Vice Chancellor and Principal.”
While at Wits Crouch was instrumental in introducing applications of new pedagogies in the digital sphere, championing the use of innovative educational technologies and the integration of technology into existing teaching and learning programmes across multiple platforms.
He spearheaded the establishment of innovative teaching and learning spaces, smart classrooms,e-zones, simulation laboratories and virtual learning spaces, as well as a planned novel centre for educational technologies. He also championed the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute at Wits, which is still active today. He was also instrumental in the planning of the Wits Science Stadium complex and the Mathematical Sciences Building.
An active member in the African higher education sector, Professor Crouch has extensive experience in teaching, research and postgraduate training, having developed courses and taught at all tertiary levels.
He is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching, research and administration. The most notable of these are the prestigious Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Fellowship and Gold Medal from the Anglo American Chairman’s Fund as well as the Excellence in Teaching and Research Award from the International Society of Electrochemistry for his contribution to the field of electrochemistry in South Africa.
He has more than 30 years research experience in environmental electrochemistry and its applications, being the author/co-author of more than 140 research papers and conference proceedings and one patent in the area of electrochemistry.