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"I will always be a very loyal Matie" - Farewell to Prof Kobus Van Schalkwyk
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 26/04/2024

​​Trying to separate Prof Kobus van Schalkwyk from Stellenbosch University (SU) and his beloved School of Accountancy (SoA) is like trying to separate a father from his son. It cannot be done even if there is distance between them. That bond will always be there, that bond that was first ignited in the imagination of a young schoolboy and further forged as a student and an academic. That bond which even retirement and the passage of time will not be able to unravel.

It was in Bellville where he grew up and at Bellville High School where he matriculated where he started dreaming of attending SU to realise his goal of becoming a chartered accountant. That dream kept him going through his two years of compulsory national service, which was the norm at the time. Upon his return, he managed to get accepted into SoA’s BAccounting (BAcc) undergraduate programme. He went on to obtain his BAcc and BAccHons in 1982 and 1983 respectively.

Describing his time as a student at SU where he was also a resident of Huis Visser University Residence, Van Schalkwyk shared: “Being in a residence, where you were accepted for who you are, where everybody felt that they belonged and everybody were friends, was special for me. It did not matter where you came from or what you were like. Some of my best friends from Huis Visser are still my best friends today and I am still in contact with them. The same goes for my classmates, especially those I did my BAccHons degree with. There is a special bond between SU students that is hard for other people to grasp.”

It was also during this time that he got to know the late Prof Johan Matthee, who was then the head of the Department of Accountancy (now SoA). Matthee, who later also became the Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, would go on to play an integral role in his future career.

After acquiring his BAccHons degree, the young Van Schalkwyk then completed his articles at Theron van der Poel (later incorporated into PwC). This was followed by brief stints at Sanlam as a financial accountant (1987-1990) and Cape Investment Bank as manager: financial services (1990).

It was while working at Cape Investment Bank and doing his BComHons in Tax at SU, that he again crossed paths with Prof Matthee who became one of his study leaders. As luck would have it there was an opening for a lecturer in SoA and Matthee wanted to know if he would be interested.

“I thought maybe I’ll give it a try for a year or two and see where it leads me. But then I found it so enjoyable and stimulating that I decided to stay on. I never thought of becoming an academic, but working with so many talented and passionate people was something special and I was persuaded to stay”, he shared.

Van Schalkwyk says the SoA was quite small back then and lecturers were required to be proficient in various disciplines.

“I had to lecture management accounting students as well as taxation and financial accounting students. After that I specialised in taxation for a year or two and then I switched to financial accounting. I was also involved with the master’s programme in taxation. I found specialising in both taxation and financial accounting very interesting because it allowed me to keep up with both disciplines on quite a high level. I kept that going for a number of years, until we could find another lecturer to take over the master’s taxation programme. After that I just specialised in financial accounting until the end of my career.”

But it is the part he played in turning the SoA into the foremost accounting department in the country during the 1990s and his tenure as Chair of the Department of Accounting (2000-2001) that he is most proud of.

“Our aim during that time was to develop the department into one of the biggest in the country. We had to work very hard to change our programmes and to keep our students. But our hard work paid off and we were able to attract excellent students and today I can honestly say that we are now the top accounting institution in the country and we produce excellent chartered accountants. Our students are often in the top 10 in the SAICA professional examinations. That was a huge accomplishment for me and my colleagues.”

Other career highlights include becoming a professor in 1998, which he describes as one of the proudest moments in his life; being Deputy Director: Social Impact and Transformation from 2016 to 2019; and Deputy Director: Learning and Teaching (2020-2023).

Van Schalkwyk served on various committees within SU including the Audit Committee (until 2014) and the Institutional forum (2014 to 2017). He also participated in social and business initiatives outside SU. This included positions as director of Horizon House, a centre in Stellenbosch that cares for people with a primary intellectual disability (2011 to 2017) and as chairperson of the Stellenbosch Chamber of Commerce from 2014 to 2017. He was also vice-captain of the Stellenbosch Golf Club (SGC) from 2018 to 2020 and thereafter captain of the SGC until 2023.

But no man is an island, and he does not hesitate to acknowledge his wife, Lize, for the role she has played in supporting him throughout his career.

“She has always supported me and being a professional (sports physiotherapist) herself she also understood the effort that I had to put into being successful as an accountant and a lecturer. We actually both retired at the end of March. So we will probably now have a bit more time for ourselves.”

On what is next, Van Schalkwyk mentioned his plans to dabble in investments, do some consulting, perhaps travel a bit and of course spend time on the golf course.

But SU will always be part of his life, of who he is. He smiles wistfully when asked how he has adjusted thus far without the institution and its people that have been such a big part of his life for so long.

“I miss the discipline of going to work every day,” he says with a hint of longing in his voice. “I especially miss my students. I was very fond of my students, and my colleagues. I think we have a special bond in SoA and I will always treasure that. I will always be a very loyal Matie.”