Goodbye Professor Russel Botman

It was with sadness that I heard of the death of Stellenbosch rector Professor Russel Botman.

In my line of work, one gets to meet very influential and insightful people.

I believe the professor was both.

More than a month ago, I was invited into Botman's office while covering a story at the university. A week earlier a student had been abducted while on her way to an exam venue.

The event obviously caused panicked among the students, who feared for their safety. They started calling for better campus security.

A 'Blind Protest for Stellenbosch Students' had been organised on campus and I was assigned to cover it. Thereafter, together with another reporter, I met with the rector.

I clearly remember the atmosphere in his office that Friday afternoon as very welcoming.

He refused to sit at his desk during the interview but preferred to sit at the coffee table with us.

To me, this spoke a lot of how Botman perceived himself. He was very humble, with no airs and graces.

During the conversation, I completely forgot that I was actually conducting an interview because of the ease the professor exuded while talking to me, almost as if I was a good friend he had invited over for dinner.

He spoke about plans to beef up security on campus but was quick to add he would not turn the campus into a police state. Coming from an environment like that during his youth, Botman believed no young adult should have to live in fear.

And there was something else which led me to become intrigued by him. At times I find academics are very aware of their status, but not Professor Botman. He turned the tables and started to interview me about my chosen career and family. This made me feel important as there are very few people, I believe, who tend to take an interest in nosy reporters.

It was then time to go, as I believe more than an hour had passed. While packing up my gear, he came over to me and suggested we meet again soon, but this time hopefully under better circumstances. I agreed. Unfortunately that day and interview were not meant to be.

Rest in peace Professor Russel Botman.

Carmel Loggenberg is an EWN reporter based in Cape Town. Follow her on Twitter: @carmell1805