By Gerhard Geldenhuys
The Western Cape Chapter of ORSSA was established in 1972 with Mr. Volker Rademacher as its first chairperson. In the almost fifty years of its existence, the chapter had its ups and downs, but it nevertheless played an important role to build bridges between members from universities and members from industry, to open new avenues for research and application, and to expose members to international trends in OR. During its early years, members of its executive committees came from the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch and from companies such as SANLAM, Mobil, Caltex and Shell, and slightly later also from the Institute for Maritime Technology. This provided a good mixture of theory, research and practice. Whenever the occasion arose, visiting experts from overseas addressed meetings of the chapter on topics on the cutting edge of OR. Speakers from local industries made members aware of real problems of particular interest in the Western Cape. Speakers from the universities took advantage of the opportunities to expound on their research and the value that it could add to OR applications. Student members were exposed to a wide variety of topics and opportunities. The appointment at UCT in 1984 of Dr. Theo Stewart as professor of Mathematical Statistics with responsibility for OR, after many years of experience in OR at the CSIR in Pretoria, had a significant impact on the activities of the Western Cape chapter.
There were concerns during the 1990’s about the viability of the chapter, but through the efforts of especially Prof. Jan van Vuuren and Mrs. Margarete Bester there was a revival in chapter activities from 1999 onwards. During this period various seminars and workshops contributed to the improved attendance at chapter meetings.
Members of the chapter organised several National Conferences of ORSSA in the Western Cape, notably including the fiftieth anniversary conference in Cape Town in 2019 with Miss (later Dr.) Lieschen Venter as chairperson of the organising committee. Four members of the chapter, Profs. Theo Stewart, Marius Sinclair, Jan van Vuuren and Stephan Visagie, served as editors for a total of 23 volumes of ORSSA’s research journal, ORiON. Members of the chapter also received national recognition in various forms for their contributions. Seven members of the chapter served terms as President of ORSSA, and the prestigious Tom Rozwadowski Award was conferred on members of the chapter on more than twenty occasions.
As we say goodbye to the chapter structure of ORSSA, the members of the various executive committees of the Western Cape Chapter over the years will cherish memories of cooperation and planning to reach their goals, but also of fun, jokes and pleasant socializing after chapter meetings. The Events Subcommittee replacing the Chapter will continue to present events that will inform local members of current tends in OR and provide them with opportunities for personal contacts and cooperation. We look forward to the new dispensation.