Vice Chancellor's statement on the passing of Prof Helen Laburn
While on University business out of the country, I received the tragic news today of the passing of Professor Helen Laburn, following a protracted illness. I worked with Helen for a number of years, first from a distance as a fellow Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, and then more closely in the first six months of my tenure at Wits. Throughout this period, I was struck by Helen’s quiet dignity, yet firm resolve. Helen served this institution with distinction in multiple roles. Even when she took ill, her loyalty to Wits and its strategic goals never wavered. A few months ago, when I was informed that she had again taken ill, I phoned and spoke to her husband, Ted. He told me that she was not doing well and that it was a matter of time. Today that time has arrived when we witness the passing of one of Wits’ greatest daughters. May she rest in peace. May her family and loved ones find solace during this trying time. Our duty to her memory is to build on the foundation that she laid. As a mark of respect, I have asked that the Wits flag be flown at half-mast for the next three days. During this trying time we extend our sympathies to Helen’s family, friends and colleagues, to her husband Ted, their two daughters, and to those who knew her well. Professor Adam Habib Vice-Chancellor and Principal Wits University

Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and former Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Helen served as a member of the University’s Senior Executive Team, and its Senate and Council. Helen dedicated a substantial portion of her life to Wits University, with her association spanning approximately 45 years, when she first enrolled as a medical student in 1969. She opted to complete a Medical BSc (1973) and then read for a BSc Honours degree (1974), before graduating with a PhD in Physiology in 1977. She joined the University as a member of staff in 1978 as a part-time lecturer and steadily advanced through the ranks. In 2001, she was appointed as Head of the School of Physiology, and in July 2006 as Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. In 2011, Helen assumed the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research. She stepped down from this post in 2013, when she fell ill.

Professor of Thermal Physiology at Wits, Helen was an accomplished researcher who was widely published. Her research focused on the physiology of temperature regulation in mammals and humans, with particular interest in the fetus and newborn. She also researched the physiological mechanisms underlying fever and the associated changes in non-thermal physiology. She published approximately 70 papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals, including 12 chapters in books.

Internationally recognised, Helen was a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a Member of the Physiological Society (London), an Honorary Fellow of the Physiology Society of Southern Africa, a member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa and a Member of the Thermal Physiology Commission of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, amongst her other affiliations. She served on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and was a member of the National Biotechnology Advisory Committee.

Over the years, she served as a director of the Wits Health Consortium, Wits Enterprise, the Origins Centre Association and the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.