August 6, 2001
S. Africa trip rekindles reconciliation spirit
Elizabeth Kurylo is communications coordinator for the Office of International Affairs.
Following nearly two weeks of meetings with key South African leaders
in education, government and business, President Bill Chace said the
doors are open for new collaborations to strengthen the deep ties
that already exist between Emory and South Africa.
We made good contacts, and we hope good things will develop from
them, said Chace, who led a delegation to South Africa in late May.
Many meetings were devoted to learning how South Africa is making the
transition to a post-apartheid democracy and how it is dealing with the
AIDS epidemic. South Africa has more people living with HIV/AIDS than
any other country; one in nine (4.7 million) South Africans are infected,
and only a minority have access to effective drug therapies.
South Africa faces tremendous challenges with the HIV/AIDS epidemic,
Chace said, and there is a huge disparity of wealth and power. But progress
has been made on post-apartheid reconciliation.
This is a country the whole world is watching, Chace said.
It could have been the scene of a huge bloodbath. But instead it
is seen as a model of reconciliation by people in Northern Ireland and
Bosnia, for example.
During the trip, the delegation observed research being done by Emory
scholars and visited with students, alumni and friends of the University.
The group also toured two impoverished townships and met with educators
from nine universities, each of which is struggling to become more diverse
in the wake of apartheid.
The delegation met with every member of the Constitutional Court, which
is the equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court. One justice, Richard Goldstone,
received an Emory honorary degree in May.
South Africa is one of the most interesting countries in the world,
Chace said. Im really proud of what Emory, in its own very
small way, has been able to do there.
Prior to the trip, dozens of faculty members already had links to South
Africa. The connections, which can be seen in nearly every school at Emory,
represent a rich and growing array of research and scholarship, ranging
from HIV prevention to the study of Islam. In addition, faculty and students
routinely travel to South Africa to learn about everything from journalism
to medicine and business, and scholars from South Africa come here as
In the law school, several professors are working on South African issues,
including reconciliation and anti-discrimination legislation. In arts
and sciences, faculty are working with universities, museums and other
institutions of public culture in South Africa that are struggling to
Among those who accompanied Chace to South Africa were James Curran, dean of the School of Public Health, and Ronald Braithwaite, professor of behavioral sciences and health education.
Braithwaite is conducting HIV-prevention research among inmates about
to be released from South African prisons. Curran has been involved in
HIV/AIDS research for 20 years.
Other members of the delegation included Senior Vice President William
Fox, English Professor JoAn Chace, University Secretary Gary Hauk, Claus
Halle (founder of the Halle Institute for Global Learning) and Associate
Vice President of Foundations and International Relations Glenn Kellum.
A highlight was a visit to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, one of the
largest hospitals in the world, located in Soweto just outside Johannesburg.
The delegation toured the infectious disease unit, where South African
scientist and newly appointed Emory professor Keith Klugman is conducting
research. His team is investigating ways to head off drug-resistant infections
before they start; 40,000 children are enrolled in the trial of a pediatric
vaccine against pneumonia. One goal is to see if the vaccine will prevent
pneumonia in HIV-infected children.
Curran said the AIDS epidemic is overwhelming, and the countrys
leaders have essentially ignored it or worse. He commended
the tremendous South African talent, both black and white
that is dealing with it, but said things will get worse before they get
The full force of the epidemic hasnt hit them yet,
Curran said. Many people are walking around with the infection who
have not yet been diagnosed.
Fox said that despite the challenges facing South Africa, he saw a lot
of hope. People were very open with us about the problems they facethey
werent trying to hide anything, Fox said. But what struck
me the most was the hope and commitment and a willingness to try to see
it all through in order to build a new country.
Chace concurred: The spirit of reconciliation is still in the air.