Come 2022, economics lecturer Mr Le Roux Burrows will no longer take on that daily drive from his home in Kleinmond to Stellenbosch University. Instead, he will now embark on other, less-travelled roads − both literally and figuratively.
The Department of Economics last week (6 November 2021) bid farewell to Burrows, one of its longest-serving lecturers, during a staff function at the Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch.
Burrows will retire with 37 loyal years of service on the clock when he takes that last drive home at the end of December.
It all started in Roodepoort, Gauteng, where he was born and bred. The young Burrows' formative years were spent at Jozua Naude Primary School and Roodepoort High School. Afterwards, as was the norm then, he completed his compulsory military training before furthering his education at the then Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg) and the University of Free State, where he majored in Economics and Mathematical Statistics.
“I switched to Free State University at the end of my first year at RAU mainly because of financial reasons. My father was transferred to Bloemfontein and the whole family had to move and I had no choice but to follow suit as I could not secure the funding needed to stay on at the residence at RAU."
It was also at Free State University where he started his career as an academic when he was offered the position of lecturer in its Economics Department, a post he held from July 1980 to December 1982. A two-year stint as an economic researcher at Sanlam in its head office in Bellville followed before “I realised that the private sector is not for me and luckily the position at Stellenbosch University became available".
He was formally appointed as lecturer in the Economics Department in January 1985. During his time in the Department Burrows also involved himself in a spate of service delivery and community interaction projects. These include serving as a member of the Institutional Forum for 14 years (of which at least 11 years were spent as chairperson), as a member of the University Council for six years and as a trustee member of the Stellenbosch University Retirement Fund for nearly 20 years. He is also the current acting executive secretary of the Economic Society of South Africa.
And now, after all these years at Stellenbosch, where he has seen student numbers at the Department more than double and the university's language policy change from Afrikaans to one of multilingualism, his journey at Stellenbosch is over.
“What I'll miss most is the collegial nature of the staff in the Department of Economics. It was the most important attribute of the staff when I started and it still is today," he says.
It is perhaps not surprising that the self-confessed “go-to person" who took responsibility for non-academic aspects in the Department such as computer requirements and admin duties, responds as he does when asked how he will spend his retirement.
“I will now have more time to care for my wife Ria who is recovering from two serious medical conditions. Her support played and is still playing a major role in my life. We are not only husband and wife but also best friends," he says.
And what about you? What are you going to do?
“I will now also have more time to be involved in the broader community and the church."
And you? What about you …?
He relents: “I'll do some DIY in and around the house. My Economics colleagues always used to say that I seem addicted to the smell of wet cement! And maybe travel a little. Drive all those back roads I never had time for before."
Of course, like all of us, he has some regrets.
“I am disappointed that I never finished my PhD. It's nice to have service delivery and community interaction on your CV but it does not really count that much when promotion is considered. As any economist will know there is no such thing as a free lunch and the concept of opportunity cost is applicable looking back."
But it is what he leaves behind that matters to him.
“All things considered, I hope my colleagues remember me as the one who never said no to anything that he was asked to do – academically and otherwise. And I hope that students will remember me as the lecturer that was available at all times. I'll be happy with that," he says.
- Photo (supplied): Ria and Le Roux Burrows at his farewell function on Saturday night at the Lanzerac Hotel. Ria was a lecturer in the Department of Business Management prior to her retirement.