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Joy Kaiser '51 and Herb Kaiser '49 Honored by South African Government

Joy Kaiser '51 and Herb Kaiser '49
Honored by South African Government

by William J. Hopkins '11

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Herb and Joy Kaiser at Swarthmore's commencement in 2004.

Joy Kaiser '51 and her husband, Herb Kaiser '49, were recently honored by South African President Jacob Zuma for their service to South Africa and its people with the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo. The award, the highest honor granted by the government to non-South Africans, recognizes an extraordinary level of commitment to a project or cause. This year's recipients also include Queen Elizabeth II and Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee.

In 1985, the Kaisers founded Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB), which has trained more than 3,000 South African medical professionals in a variety of fields. MESAB has since expanded to include a mentor program that provides support to 6,000 medical students each year, and in 2002 they launched a palliative care program to support South Africans suffering from AIDS. President Zuma expressed gratitude for the Kaisers' efforts, describing them as vital to "skills development in our country."

Among their other honors are honorary Doctor of Science degrees they each received from the Medical University of South Africa and from Swarthmore College. "South Africa [...] gets under one's skin," Joy Kaiser said at the latter's commencement in 2004. "When Herb retired from the Foreign Service, we began to think about ways that outsiders could somehow help black South Africans."

"They appealed to us as Americans to support training for black doctors," said Herb Kaiser at the ceremony. "We also saw training black health professionals as preparation for black leadership roles in a post-apartheid society. We knew that apartheid had to end - it was morally and economically untenable. We did not guess then that it would implode so soon."