Prof Hayman Russel (HR) Botman was born in Bloemfontein on 18 October 1953. After matriculating from the Kliptown Senior Secondary School in Johannesburg, he enrolled at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) to study theology. While he was an undergraduate, he was elected to the Student Representative Council as its public relations officer and organised several anti-apartheid protests among his peers.
The qualifications he obtained from the institution over the course of his life are a BA (1978), BTh (1979), BTh Licentiate (1981), MTh cum laude (1984) and DTh (1994).
After being ordained in 1982, Botman took up the position of minister of religion of the Wynberg congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church. Over the next decade, he played an important part in uniting the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa and the Reformed Church in Africa. The result was the newly founded Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa (URCSA).
Botman made the transition from church to academia during 1994, when he accepted a senior lecturing position in practical theology at UWC. In 1999 he was promoted to associate professor, as well as dean of the Faculty of Religion and Theology. The following year saw him make the transfer to Stellenbosch when he joined the University in 2000 as professor in missiology, ecumenism and public theology. During this process, he brought 38 UWC students along with him to Stellenbosch University (SU), as theology was in the process of being scaled down at UWC.
Two years after joining SU, Botman was appointed as vice-rector for teaching, a position he would hold for five years until he made history by becoming SU’s first rector and vice-chancellor of colour in 2007. He simultaneously served as president of the South African Council of Churches during this period.
One of Botman’s main focus points as rector was the development and transformation of the institution into a multicultural university. One of the initiatives he helped set in motion is the 2010 HOPE Project, aimed at utilising the University’s proven expertise in a purposeful manner, and on a large scale to the benefit of society. Another achievement was the adoption of Vision 2030, which focuses on four strategic areas: broadening SU’s knowledge base, promoting student success, increasing diversity, and becoming systemically more sustainable.
Botman was reappointed for a second five-year term in 2012, but unexpectedly passed away in his sleep on 28 June 2014.