Tributes pour in for Tobias
World-renowned expert in the field of human origin Dr Phillip Tobias loved cricket so much that he used to pester his old student, Dr Ali Bacher, for tickets to tests whenever South Africa played.
Bacher, the former managing director of the then United Cricket Board, last night recalled how his former "prof", and later his close friend, used to "conveniently" call him a day or so before a test to say he was in town and inquired how he thought "the boys" would perform.
"I knew what he meant and I would organise the tickets for him," Bacher told a memorial service for Tobias at Wits University last night.
The professor would invariably reply that it would be "a great honour" to accept the invitation, recalled Bacher, whom Tobias taught medicine in the 1960s.
Among the dignitaries who attended the service in a packed Great Hall were Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and Zanele Mbeki, the wife of former president Thabo Mbeki.
Justice Moseneke, a friend of Tobias's, told The Times: "Beyond many words, the late prof helped restore a sense of belonging to the human race of the African people."
Tobias inspired generations of Wits science and medical students during a teaching career spanning more than 50 years.
His pioneering research at Sterkfontein Caves, where over a third of all known early hominid fossils have been found, brought him international acclaim.
Professor Beverley Kramer, Wits' assistant dean of health sciences, said Tobias was an intelligent, companionable and loving man - sentiments that were echoed by several other speakers.
Among those who had worked with him at Sterkfotein Caves was Isaac Makhele, the site foreman, who said the professor was a loving man who never lost his temper.
"Professor Tobias was not placed in a leadership position because of his qualifications, rather because of his God-given nature," said Makhele.
During his tenure at Wits, Tobias served as head of the departments of anatomy and human biology until 1990.
From 1980 to 1982 he was dean of the faculty of medicine and honorary professor of paleoanthropology and professor of zoology.
He died on June 7 after a long illness. He was 86.