With much disbelief, confusion and shock, I have looked and listened to the last 24 hours since I found out that Prof Ernst Kruger had passed away last night. Speaking to people and reading what has been written on social media, I have been drawn to reflect on the journey we have been on, as I have realised the impact he has had on many and the respect he has by all.
Prof Kruger, a man often with few words in public, who would stand for and live by what he believed was right, even if it was not the popular thing, a man who loved his family, was committed to giving everything, and who lived everything he did to the fullest. A man I have respected over the last 18 going on 19 years.
Our paths crossed in January 1997 as I started studying at the University of Pretoria, to very quickly getting to know of his reputation, to him becoming my first boss, with our work paths running alongside, the integration of services into the TuksSport clubs and finally colleagues working around our student-athletes and student studies within his role in the ISR and academic department and mine in TuksSport.
So as the last 24 hours have passed I have been thinking about what do I and what will I always remember about this highly respected individual … A National athlete, well renowned academic, a passionate sports lover, a husband and father.
I will remember …
- The first day of studies as he introduced himself, welcomed us as new first years and proceeded to say that we should look at the person on our left and right of ourselves and that by the end of our degree, probably only one of us three would be left.
- His reputation over the years of being ‘difficult’ as a lecturer and that his subjects were always the most difficult to pass.
- Him being the examiner in our swimming practicals.
- Him refereeing the rugby game between the first years and the third years, a tradition since lost.
- Recording all his lectures on a dictaphone, playing them back and making notes on his subjects, as he wanted the information his way, because he was that precise in what he expected of himself and others.
- His characteristic ‘Dames en Here’ as he would address you in lectures or staff meetings. It’s was his professional approach to people.
- Failing his Sport Injuries first semester test of every undergrad year and having to make up big marks in the rest of the year to pass.
- Him ‘throwing’ my and my fellow student, first presentation of the Honours Biokinetics year, back at us saying it was not acceptable and needs to be redone.
- His high standards and expectations.
- Him becoming my first boss, as I embarked on my internship within the ISR
- Supporting me in my work, as doors opened, such as the opportunities to work with the National swimming squad.
- How he ‘threatened’ to also withdraw me from an international trip if a report was not submitted on time and prior to departure 🙂
- Playing touch rugby with all the men at the annual bosberaad of the ISR.
- The development of the Sport Science degree program oriented for talented athletes to be able to balance academics and their sport.
- Scanning newspaper clippings for him for a reunion, about his rugby days where he competed in the SA Schools team. Reading how The foreign write up refered to him becoming the next big Springbok player.
- The discussion we had when I received the offer to leave the ISR for a national federation.
- The open door he always had for me even though we may have disagreed on some matters.
- The honest and frank discussions, often then behind a closed door, that we could have, even up to last week.
- His small heart and willingness to help people, even when initially he was perceived as not willing to.
- His passion for his family, his wife, Tannie Elmien, his sons and more recently his grand children.
- How he used to run the sport grounds on a regular basis prior to tearing his Achilles’ tendon.
- His distinctive fast walking style when he was on his way to a meeting or late for an appointment. No one could keep up.
- The way he always opened a staff meeting with prayer and his belief in the Lord God.
- The things he did behind the scenes that many never knew about, just to help.
- His passion for sport, in general, but his strong opinions on his beloved sport Rugby.
- The days he was the S&C coach to the Tuks1 rugby team and the testing we used to help with on those players. Pulls ups in the Rugby polls I will never forget.
- Our trip to Malawi for a conference in the last 2 years.
- The discussions we had about life, how things are changing and that, well, students seem to be changing faster than we realize.
- To the practicals, the first aid, the student-athlete study advice discussions
- His love for his birds and the breeding of his finches. And what many did not always realize that he was highly respected and presented at many an international conference on this.
- Our last discussion we had last week about student first aid practicals.
- That he was a perfectionist, and had high expectations of all. Whether it be answering emails, cause we all could get them on our phones now – he would say, to reports or whatever he did.
- His signature trait of signing off his emails with … Professor.
- That many students and now professionals, which includes my wife and I and many of my colleagues in TuksSport and the ISR have been under his guidance and teaching as some stage. A massive impact.
Prof Kruger was a man filled with passion for what he did and embarked on. His God and family were always first to him. His dedication to his work, career and 30+ years service to the University of Pretoria is something that I have respected.
As he leaves a void in many lives, in his work space, may all, as I have witnessed today, reflect on the good things, the good times & the good traits of this man. To those he leaves behind, Tannie Elmien, his children and grand children, his staff and colleagues, may you all find peace and strength in this difficult time, with the comfort that he lived his life to the maximum.
Thank you Professor for the role and impact you have had on my development to where I am today. Baie Dankie Prof. Jou hoek kantoor Gaan Baie leeg staan!
May you rest in peace and your legacy you leave behind be a positive one.
Rest Well Prof.