Matie postgraduate student, Gerbrandt Kotzé (26) from Paarl, did not allow cancer to interfere with his Master's studies in science, or to make him feel despair, be depressed or fearful.
He persevered with his studies, never complaining or letting his illness define his life. Gerbrandt's mother, Ms Amanda Kotzé, says that when he went for chemotherapy sessions, he would encourage and support other cancer patients. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer, which spread to his liver.
During Stellenbosch University's third graduation ceremony for 2018 at the Coetzenburg Centre this evening (11 December) those present witnessed with great empathy how Gerbrandt's devoted mother accepted the MSc degree on his behalf.
Gerbrandt passed away on 28 May of this year, three days before his 27th birthday. He never heard the result of his thesis, which Stellenbosch University (SU) made available only a fortnight after his death.
Gerbrandt worked closely with his supervisor, Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus of the RME-Nano Research Group at Inorganic Chemistry in SU's Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science.
Earlier this year, when he was already becoming weaker, he submitted chapters of his thesis entitled, Mono- and Bimetallic Au-Cu dendrimer micelle encapsulated nanoparticles as catalysts in the oxidation of styrene. The Acknowledgement section of his thesis is a full confession of his faith.
An anecdote told by Gerbrandt's mother reveals that even as a small child he had a big heart for people who were struggling. One day his mother saw her three-year-old little boy packing all the clothes in his room into a suitcase.
Fighting back tears Amanda continues: “I then asked him where he was going. Gerbrandt told me that he was going to give all the clothes to the poor children. I had to persuade him to leave a few items of clothing behind otherwise he would have had nothing to wear."
Even as a young adult he still wished to help people in difficulty. This is why on his birthday on 1 June this year his family held a special Gerbrandt Kotzé Commemoration Day and made a donation of imperishable foodstuff and money to the Andrew Murray Children's Home in Paarl.
Gerbrandt's older brother, Dawid, cannot stop talking about his brother's intelligence, sense of humour and humanity.
Says Dawid: “He was a comedian. If he could make people laugh, he was very happy. But he also had a quiet, deep side."
When Gerbrandt was told that he had cancer, he remained calm and collected. He allayed his family's concerns by the way he received the bad news. Amanda says that he told her: “I have reconciled myself to what has happened because my life is in the Lord's hands".
Gerbrandt had a great love of science and it was his mission to cultivate this love of science in young people. He played guitar in the Shofar Church at Stellenbosch.
Gerbrandt is survived by his mother, Amanda, his father, Gerhard, his brother Dawid, his sister-in-law, Cecilia, and his adopted sister, Elizabeth (10).