Penguins and Robins: A Reunion continued

By Nick van der Merwe

Nick van der Merwe

No, not the group shot. It does show the Boulders Beach penguin colony at which the Robins gazed.

Four Yale scholars could travel together in two cabins with single beds and a shared bathroom. The four berths were not always full, since some of the Robins found things to do in the US during the summer instead of sailing to South Africa.

After the Class of 1962 held its 50th reunion at Yale in 2012, the first four Yale Robins (James Walker ’60, Heinrich von Staden ’61, Nikolaas van der Merwe ’62, and Johann Gouws ’63) followed with a reunion in South Africa. Johann Gouws enlisted the help of the Yale Alumni Association to locate the Robin graduates and produced a list, and in 2014 I proceeded to invite them. We met from 2 to 6 January, 2015, at the All Africa House at the University of Cape Town (UCT), a guest house for academic visitors with a seminar room.

Initially, seven Yale Robins agreed to attend, but eventually three members (Walker ‘60, Roberts ‘62, and Gouws ‘63) cancelled for medical or other personal reasons. The reunion was consequently attended by four Robins (von Staden ’61, van der Merwe ’62, Cronje ’65, and Glenday ’70). All Africa House provided continental breakfasts and we made our own dinners, mostly by microwaving take-away dishes from the nearby shopping centre in Rondebosch. On Saturday 3 June and Monday 5 June, we all had lunch together in a vegetarian Indian restaurant.

Lives and careers. The formal meetings of the reunion took place in the seminar room of all Africa House on 3 and 5 January from 10:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 16:00. Each Robin had two hours to provide a Life History of his high school years, Yale undergraduate education and subsequent career. Cronje and Glenday spoke on Saturday 3 January and von Staden and van der Merwe spoke on Monday 5 January. Combined with questions from the three listeners, these presentations provided exceptional accounts of the directions into which a Yale undergraduate education can steer its graduates.

On Sunday we spent a very enjoyable day in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. At 10:00 we arrived in three separate vehicles at my home in Kalk Bay, which is a fishing village with a small harbour and hand line fishing fleet. We spent two hours investigating the harbour and fleet, and then set off for Willem Cronje’s holiday house in the Boulders area of Simonstown. From this viewpoint we could look down on the round volcanic rocks of Boulders Beach, an unusual sight in the sandstone environment of the Cape Peninsula, and on the unique breeding colony of African penguins. Christine Cronje treated us to an excellent lunch and we went for an afternoon walk along the beachfront to see the penguins. Our day in the southern suburbs served to cement friendships among the Robins and also with my wife Karen and Willem’s wife Christine, and on Monday we completed a very instructive and enjoyable reunion.

(My report does not include an account of the Life Histories provided by the four Robins; Heinrich von Staden ’63 at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton may yet do so and email it to the Robins.)

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