Updated: Jan 31
by Hennie Kruger
The acceptance of the new structure for ORSSA at the 2021 AGM means that the Vaal Triangle chapter will no longer exist in the form that we know it. It is appropriate to say a big thank you to ORSSA for all the years of support, encouragement, funding, etc., to the Vaal Triangle chapter and its members. Personally (and I believe that I am also speaking on behalf of all the other Vaal chapter members), it was a privilege and a most enjoyable experience to be a member of the Vaal chapter.
The chapter was established late in 1983 at the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education campus in Vanderbijlpark. The first chairperson was Prof Dries de Wet, and since then thirteen chairpersons have served the chapter. Geographically, the chapter covered a large area which includes the Vaal Triangle, North-West province and the Free State. In 2010, Marthi Harmse, then the president of ORSSA (and a former Vaal chapter chairperson) and I visited the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein to reach out to potential members in Bloemfontein with the idea of getting them involved. Unfortunately, it was not very successful and the chapter remains a home for operations researchers mainly from the North-West University (formerly the Potchefstroom University), Sasol, and during the earlier years, Iscor.
Except for a few years when chapter activities did not occur regularly, the chapter was very active and chapter meetings and events in the form of presentations, were organised regularly in Potchefstroom, Vanderbijlpark, and Sasolburg. An interesting first for any of the chapters was a digital gathering organised by Lieschen Venter in 2014. Google Hangouts were used and David Wertheimer from Google in California addressed the meeting. This was followed by another digital meeting where Louise Wehrle, the CAP coordinator of INFORMS addressed us. Talking about the CAP (Certified Analytics Professional) program, Michelle Fischer, a Vaal chapter member at that stage, was the first person outside of North America to complete this program successfully.
The Vaal chapter has also played a significant role in the activities of the national society over the years. Many members served on the national executive committee and made regular contributions to the annual ORSSA conferences and the society’s journal, ORiON. The chapter also organised a number of the annual national conferences – the first being in 1984 at the Vaal Triangle Technikon – merely one year after the inauguration of the chapter in 1983. The most recent conference organised by the Vaal chapter was the 2021 online event held in Potchefstroom. A small selection of memories from members at recent conferences is galleried below.
It was indeed a privilege to be a member of the Vaal chapter and it is with a bit of sadness that we greet the Vaal chapter, but at the same time we are looking with great expectation and excitement forward to the “new” ORSSA and its new structures. The Vaal chapter members wish the society all the best and we remain committed to contributing to ORSSA’s future successes.