The Retirement of an Icon: Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen

The Retirement of an Icon: Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen

The Retirement of an Icon: Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen

A scholar. A gentleman. A visionary. A stalwart of the technology transfer world, and an amazing friend. It’s sad to see you go, but what you leave in your wake will benefit generations of innovators in the years to come.

Who is Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen? Let’s touch on just a little of the storied history of this great man. Prof Leopoldt’s roots are planted in the agricultural world, with his early years spent on an apple-producing farm in Joubertina. As he grew, he accumulated a BScAgric, HonsBScAgric (cum laude), MScAgric (cum laude) and PhD(Agric) degrees from our University. During this time, he became fascinated with, and fairly proficient at translating research into technology, specifically in the viticultural and horticultural worlds and the technology developed from his research has also been a boon to the citrus, deciduous fruit and forestry industries. In 1992, two videos, based mainly on his research on soil management, won the international OIV (Office Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin) prize for the best audio-visual production for technology transfer. This depth of knowledge came in handy when, as the Dean of AgriSciences, the IP Protection Act came into being and it made him the logical choice to take up the reigns as Executive Director: Operations and Finance. In 2013 he was appointed as the first Chief Operating Officer of Stellenbosch University. After the unexpected passing of Prof Russel Botman in 2014, Leopoldt was appointed as Acting Rector and Vice-Chancellor, a position in which he served for nine months.  He’s also one of the few people who have their own page on Wikipedia…

In 2008, he was instrumental in the successful restructuring of Innovus in 2009 and, as the then Executive Director of Operations and Finance, he was seminal in the creation of our business model and a change in strategy. It was also his influence that helped to assemble our Board of Directors, the quality of which any listed company would be overjoyed to have. It is not hyperbolic to say that without Prof Leopoldt, who, apart from being one of the nicest people you will ever be lucky enough to meet, is also one of the most involved. Innovus would never have grown into what it is now, ten years later.

Desmond Smith, Chairman of Sanlam, the Chairman of the Innovus Board, and long-time friend and collaborator of Prof Leopoldt believes his influence had a lot to do with his understanding of the dual worlds of technology transfer. “Nobody could navigate the internal workings of the University like him,” he says. “He completely grasped the concept of ‘science plus business’. This made him an incredibly versatile and effective Board Member.”

Anita mirrors Desmond’s sentiments. “He has just been amazing. He is always insightful, and constantly supportive. Everybody has learned so much from him in the last decade.”

What Prof Leopoldt remembers most fondly of his time at Innovus is the challenge. “Innovus, and Anita, were very stimulating,” he remembers, “and the journey was constantly intriguing. Even though we had such a diverse amount of activities, our growth never plateaued!” A stand-out project for him is the LaunchLab, which is, in his proud words, “The best in the country!”

But just because he’s moving on, doesn’t mean that he is slowing down. He leaves us to continue to make science work for communities, making a positive impact on the country and her people, as the Head of the Academy for Environmental Leadership. Since he’s decided to remain on our Board, to the delight of Desmond, Anita and everyone else, he’ll still be making his impact felt for the next few years.

From all of us, Prof Leopoldt, thank you. Your legacy is one of support, constant evolution, and a striking balance between pure academic pursuits, and the commercialisation thereof. Your legacy is Innovus.