Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba is the Vice-Chancellor of the recently-formed University of KwaZulu-Natal. An internationally recognized molecular immunologist, Professor Makgoba has received many honours and distinctions, including the Science-for-Society Gold Medal of the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2002.
Born in Sekhukhune in 1952, Professor Makgoba grew up as a shepherd. He received his M.B. and Ch.B. degrees from the former University of Natal in 1976 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Immunogenetics from Oxford University in 1983. A former research professor of molecular immunology at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Pathology, Professor Makgoba is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and of the Royal Society of South Africa. In 2002, he was elected as foreign Associate member of the United States National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine and was appointed as a fellow of the College of Physicians of South Africa ad eundem.
Professor Makgoba was a visiting associate scientist at the NIH from 1986 to 1988. Working with Dr. Stephen Shaw and others at the National Cancer Institute, he was instrumental in demonstrating the importance of adhesion molecules in T cell function.
Professor Makgoba joined the former University of Natal as its Vice-Chancellor at the beginning of September 2002, after serving for four years as president of the Medical Research Council of South Africa (MRC) and for four years before that as MRC Board Chairperson. During his time on the MRC, he played an important role in developing a strategy for dealing with South Africa’s AIDS epidemic and was the leader of the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative. He has often acted as an outspoken critic of AIDS denialists.
As Vice-Chancellor of the former University of Natal, Professor Makgoba played a major role in leading the successful merger between the former universities of Natal and Durban-Westville, which took effect on 1 January 2004. He continues to oversee the consolidation of the new University of KwaZulu-Natal, now one of the largest contact universities in South Africa.
Some of Professor Makgoba’s awards include the United Kingdom Department of Health’s National Health Service Distinction and Meritorious Award, the Dr G E Malherbe Award for outstanding contribution to Education, Science and Industry (University of Natal Convocation) and a Gold Medal for outstanding leadership in medical research (University of the Witwatersrand). The British National Museum of Science and Industry selected his work in 1994 for a permanent display popularizing state-of-the-art science in the 20th Century. He was also selected to present the James C. Hill Memorial Lecture at the National Institute of Health in 2001. More recently, Professor Makgoba has been the recipient of the Science for Society Gold Medal of the Academy of Science of South Africa (2003) and the Old Mutual South African Leadership Award in Education (2004). He was also the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor Golden Award from Unitech (2004), which recognises exceptional and innovative leadership in Marketing, Communication and Development. In recognition of his achievements and contribution to development in South Africa, he also received the 2004 Limpopo Morula Award in the ‘Academic’ category.
Professor Makgoba is author of numerous scientific papers and in 1989, he co-authored two of the most cited papers in immunology. He has also written widely on the issue of the transformation of Higher Education and of South African society more generally. He was also a member of the National Working Group appointed by the Minister of Education in March 2001 to advise and make recommendations on the restructuring of the Higher Education sector in South Africa. He is chairperson of the Rhodes Scholarship Committee in KwaZulu-Natal and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Oxford Round Table.