Tribute to Colin Gardner – MIDI Trustee

Dear Mary and Family, Dignitaries and Friends.

We have anticipated and watched with a sense of eagerness, for each of Colin’s appearances at MIDI over the years. MIDI, during its brief history, has been very much a migratory entity, occupying a variety of locations around the City until we recently moved into our very own home at 33 Alan Paton Avenue, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg. To each of these entities we watched Colin walk in, and over the last year, he did so with a great deal of a more laboured and measured step. Nevertheless, on all those occasions, or when he so readily represented the MIDI cause, it was that whimsical smile, the wit, shining eyes and beneath it all, a razor sharp intellect that greeted one.

MIDIs work has been, and always will, be about cherishing a role as a partner of those organisations such as our local and district governments, the Chamber of Business or the higher education sector, that are committed to our City and its future wellbeing. Professor Gardner came out of an academic background, and our Director, Professor Fincham, was one of his former students at the University of Natal, that learnt their trade from him. An emphatic, dedicated and wise Professor in the Department of English, he always instilled a sense of principle and a striving for justice throughout any course he delivered.

We all know how he continued to recreate himself after leaving the University, sharpening his anti-apartheid skills in local government, amongst other things, as Speaker of the Municipality and interestingly enough, as the Chair of the Local Agenda 21 Committee that sought to instil a sense of the importance and urgency about our natural resource base that underpins our every activity in the City. In all these roles, and as a longstanding member of the Board of Trustees of MIDI, Colin was unswerving in tackling issues with integrity and that self-same sense of principle that underscored his academic career at the University. It was his mission and his unending commitment to social justice and development, not only as an academic idea but as a reality in our city, that he conducted his contribution to the state of affairs of the City and of organisations such as MIDI of which he was part.

Mary, we want you to know that the Board of Trustees and the Staff at MIDI will remember Colin for his every day sameness – a blameless, continuous commitment to excellence, with little pretension, but with such wisdom in anything he did for us. Seldom was a debate at Board or in the everyday work life of MIDI complete when Colin was around, without us wanting to hear his take on the issue at hand. He was our elder statesman; the person we – to an individual – admired and held in high esteem. But above all, as we say farewell to him today, it is with a sense of the love of life that we remember him; we in turn loved him as a friend, a colleague, as a leader and as a visionary.

Robert Fincham