Born on 17 August 1923 in Beaufort West, Jan Naudé (JN) de Villiers arrived in Stellenbosch at the beginning of 1940 as a first-year theology student (and resident of Dagbreek) before deciding the following year to rather pursue a career as medical doctor. This meant transferring to UCT as SU did not yet have its medical faculty.
The decision to switch courses proved to be accurate and in 1950 De Villiers began practising as a fulltime general practitioner in Calvinia, with a special focus on gynaecology and obstetrics.
Six years later he returned to SU after accepting a position as lecturer at Karl Bremer Hospital’s new Medical Science Faculty. This was also the starting point of a lifetime of pioneering research on topics such as the post-labour sterilisation of mothers, therapeutic abortions as a lifesaving measure, the management of blood flow following labour, as well as general quality control during and around the birthing process.
At the age of 47, De Villiers took over the rectorship from Prof HB Thom in January 1970. The University experienced major growth at the time, and continued to do so under his term in office.
Seven years after stepping into this position, De Villiers made history on 11 June 1977 by announcing that SU would open its doors to all students to pursue undergraduate qualifications, regardless of race or cultural background.