Stellenbosch University (SU) is saddened to learn of the death this morning (13 January 2023) of Prof Christo Viljoen, a valued member of our university community.
Throughout his life, Prof Viljoen made a significant local and international impact as a leader, researcher and teacher – largely in an SU capacity.
Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor says Prof Viljoen dedicated his life to the improvement of the University. “His passion for SU was palpable. In addition to his huge contribution as a brilliant academic, researcher and later dean of the Faculty of Engineering, he made a major contribution as, among other things, Vice-Rector: Operations in terms of improving campus infrastructure. His contribution as a thinker of the future will be missed at SU for a long time," says Prof De Villiers.
Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, former Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching, says he will remember Prof Viljoen as an excellent lecturer, administrator and manager who also had a keen interest in space engineering.
“Prof Christo has had an interest in space engineering since the Sputnik and Apollo days. Among other things, he was involved in a ground station that received Sputnik's signal in Stellenbosch in 1957! In the nineties and beyond, he was a big supporter of our SUNSAT project and flew SU's flag at every opportunity."
Hailing from Graaff-Reinet, he began his studies at SU in 1955 and stayed connected to the university throughout his life. After completing his PhD in engineering at SU, he continued his studies in England (1960-61) and worked as an engineer in the (then) Department of Posts and Telegraphs in Pretoria (1962-65).
He was appointed as Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering at SU in 1966, and was promoted to professor in 1970. He became the dean of the faculty in 1979, a position he held until 1993 after which he became the Vice-Rector of Operations until his retirement in 1998.
A visionary thinker, he subsequently founded the Office for Intellectual Property at SU (which later became Innovus), from which he retired as Director in 2002. He also acted as the Managing Director of the Unistel Group of Companies.
In March 2006 he was elected a member of the SU Council. Until 2016, he made valuable contributions as President of SU's Convocation.
In March 2006 he was elected a member of the SU Council. He became president of the SU Convocation until 2016.
Further evidence of his pioneering work is that he made a decisive contribution to the establishment of Technopark. He also made a significant contribution to the creation and establishment of a cyber vocabulary in English and Afrikaans.
The SU community's thoughts are with his family and friends.