Wits University’s flags will fly at half-mast for the next six days in honour of  former Vice Chancellor, Professor Robert (Bob) Charlton. Charlton passed away yesterday morning at the age of 86, after succumbing to a brief illness. He  first came to Wits as an undergraduate medical student in 1946 and was appointed as vice chancellor of the university 46 years later. In a statement released by Prof Adam Habib, current vice-chancellor, Charlton’s academic and professional journey as well as his personal characteristics were celebrated. 

The statement is reproduced in full below:

“Dear Colleagues

The Wits flag will fly at half-mast for the next six days to honour the memory of former Wits Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert (Bob) Charlton who passed away this morning after a brief illness at the age of 86.

Professor Robert W Charlton’s long association with Wits began in 1946 when he registered as an undergraduate medical student. He was awarded the degree of MD in 1963 and appointed as Professor of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology in 1967. In 1975, Professor Charlton was elected as a Senate representative on the University Council while serving as Assistant Dean of the Medical School. In 1978, he was elected Dean and served in that capacity until his appointment as Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1980. In February 1988, he was appointed Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University and held office for two terms until 1997. Under his steadfast and principled leadership, the University was steered on an even course during challenging times in the late 1980s and 1990s.

During his career as an academic and university administrator he served on several local and national bodies. These include the Medicines Control Council, the South African Medical and Dental Council, the Johannesburg Hospital Board, the Coronation Nursing College Council, the Witwatersrand Technikon Council and the Johannesburg College of Education Council.

Professor Charlton served with dedication on the Board of Governors of the Wits Foundation. He was invited to be a Trustee in 1987 and was reappointed in 1997. He served voluntarily in this position until 2008.

He had a passion for education and a lifelong commitment to the University that continued in many formal and informalcapacities in recent years. He initiated and supported the Charlton Awards for Service Excellence for support staff, and was always present to hand out these coveted awards to exceptional staff. He regularly attended Wits events including Evolution Day in the Great Hall in June this year.

We acknowledge with gratitude the invaluable contribution that Professor Charlton made to Wits University. Wits has indeed lost one of its stalwarts today. His wife Margaret, also deeply involved in university life, passed away some years ago. Our deepest condolences are extended to Professor Charlton’s family, friends and former colleagues and students, and especially to his three daughters, Sarah, Julia and Diana, and his son, Robert, all of whom have close ties with Wits.

We wish you peace during this difficult period.

– Professor Adam Habib”.