By Jess Levy, Meggan McCarthy and Raul Dimitriu
Students and staff were shocked to hear that Dr Michael Herbst, a lecturer in the Fine Art Department, took his own life on Tuesday, May 1.
Herbst produced a substantial amount of research, solidifying his status as a well respected critical analyst of Fine Art in South Africa.
Dr Herbst presented research papers at academic conferences, and published papers in research journals. He contributed to secondary school art education by running numerous workshops for the National Schools and Eastern Cape Schools Festivals as well as co-ordinating a Rhodes alumni photographic exhibition, to celebrate a hundred years of personality.
Herbst obtained a PhD from the University of Witwatersrand and started lecturing at Rhodes at the beginning of 2002. He had been lecturing Art History and Visual Culture students.
Class representive Maica Schweppenhauser commented that he was “completely immersed in his academics, you could see that he was very passionate about what he did,” she said.
This sentiment was echoed by Professor Brenda Schmahmann, head of the Fine Art Department, who described Herbst as a “committed and involved teacher who took teaching very seriously.” David Porter, the fourth year Fine Art class representative, said “Dr Herbst was very inspiring and influential. He was a big part of the department and will be a big loss to the department.”
“He was an incredibly challenging lecturer. Even from first year, he set the level very high for us to jump to, he expected so much from us. He was the definition of quirky, incredibly intelligent and his wit was as sharp as steel. Michael was really a leader in what he did and will not be able to be replaced,” said John Walters, a fourth year Fine Art student.
Phenyo Moalosi, another fourth year Fine Art student, said that Dr Herbst’s death “was a shock, especially to the fourth year students who had been with him for a long time.” Moalosi also commented that Dr Herbst was a good lecturer who was able to “unpack abstract and complex subjects”.
There was a memorial on Monday, May 7 at St Peter’s Chapel. In a press release the Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of the University, extended his “sincerest condolences to Dr Herbst’s
family, friends, students and colleagues during this difficult time.”