TRIBUTE TO DR IVAN MAY
|Posted by Administrator (admin) on Jan 14 2011|
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TRIBUTE TO DR IVAN MAY,
It was typical of Ivan who earlier that night had shared with me a diary that was already packed with appointments and events for 2011.
None of this was unusual, for Ivan, as we all know, was a man who never let the grass grow under his feet – a man of action in the truest sense of that word.
That meeting with me, of course, can never happen following his untimely death on Friday 31 December; neither will the countless other interactions he had planned and which, without doubt would have involved almost everyone here at some point.
Each of us would be able to share stories about Ivan which we would find enriching. In thinking about this eulogy to a man who had a unique impact on the lives of so many people, organisations and initiatives in South Africa and internationally, I want to reflect also on some of the – perhaps some would say more intimate – insights into his life.
We all know that Ivan had a tremendous love for technology, and wherever he found himself, his two cellphones were not far away. How many of us can recall him picking up his cellphone as, in some meeting or other, we sought for a contact, and he would say: “Phone so-and-so, and mention my name.” But my greatest memory of Ivan and his cellphone was on New Year’s Eve exactly eleven years before he died, as we saw in the new millennium with him and Sechaba at the Kaizer Ball in Vienna during a holiday we enjoyed with them in Eastern Europe. While people were partying away as the resonant sound of the Pummerin Bell of St Stephans Dom struck the midnight hour to mark the turn of the millennium, Ivan was texting new year greetings to his vast list of friends. Perhaps some of you may recall receiving one. When I remarked on it, he said, “It is more important than anything else that I greet my friends at the turn of the millennium.” This simply epitomised the vast regard in which Ivan held his wide circle of friends. He was a man who, through those friendships, reached out to communities wider than any of us will probably ever manage, and called forth their own gifts to help him as he spearheaded help for others.
Then there was the domestic Ivan, who looked after his lovely home in Observatory – overstuffed as it was with books, paintings, batiques – with great love and pride, and a garden of great beauty that he loved. He had lived there most of his life. When one went to visit, there was, of course, always the welcoming committee of his beloved little canine friends – the latest of which, in true Ivan style, he had nicknamed Vuvuzela. His care for all things living was shown in these little animals too – I remember well, when several years ago. Ivan’s home, however, was more than just his. He shared it with so many, many of whom are here today to pay tribute to him, and all of whom had an immense love for Ivan. For many years, he was served faithfully by Lena Nkabinde, and more latterly by her sister, Christina Nkabinde. James Ncube was a faithful companion working beside Ivan in the home and, in the latter stages of illness, also served as his chauffeur. Many who stayed at the home came to be mentored by Ivan; the late Xolani Dyusha was one such person, and more latterly Dumisani Matoti. Michael Phiri was one of those whose welfare Ivan looked after, and who in turn was a great help to him.
Among the dozens of young people who counted them as their mentor, many, including Sanele Sobantwana, are present today.
For some forty years, Sechaba Kitleli was Ivan’s faithful mate, and, in his passing, Sechaba has lost his dearest friend. Those of us who knew Ivan and counted him as our close friend can only imagine Sechaba’s loss, and our hearts go out to you at this time. At the same time, we extend our condolences to members of Ivan’s extended family, to Rosemary van Zyl, John and Ann Futter. I know your presence at his bedside on his final day, with Sechaba and others, would have been felt by Ivan in spite of his unconsciousness at the time. We recognise and salute you and all the folk who stood closely by Ivan in his final days.
Ivan was a no-nonsense man. My greatest admiration for him was in the fact that he was a man of action and in that, he and I had much in common. He believed in getting on with life, doing so proficiently and with excellence. I don’t want to speak about the myriad of organisations in which Ivan was involved, many of which have him to thank for their continued existence. The time will come for that at the Memorial Service in the Wits Great Hall on 19 January as people from different walks of life attest to his wide influence. But as I begin to conclude, I do want to say that those organisations – from the smallest charity to the biggest business – will at some point have had Ivan’s professional, philosophical and humanistic approach to life in all its fullness to thank for their success.
And this is because Ivan would have brought to every meeting the six criteria he employed to guide the success of any initiative in any organisation in which he was involved:
- Is it innovative? Ivan would ask if would contribute to the differentiation of the brand – and yes, your NGO is brand, he would say with a twinkle in those blue eyes of his.
- Is it exemplary in every sense? If not, the idea would not be pursued, as happened when he aborted a Michael Jackson tour of South Africa.
- Is it catalytic? Will it, in other words, affect not only the organisation directly concerned, but have a multiplier effect on other organisations, people, initiatives in society?
- Is it sustainable? For, he would say, if it is just a fad, it is not worthwhile pursuing.
- Will it leave a legacy? In other words, will it empower people, and empowerment was one of his watchwords.
- Will it offer equity to everyone involved?
We all know Ivan was a learned man with many degrees. But fundamentally, he was a humanist who, in his business dealings wanted people and all living things to benefit. That is why he was involved in initiatives as divergent as the environment and arts and culture.
There are so many more things one could say; but I must end. But let me leave you with what Ivan called May’s Laws:
Law 1: Nothing is impossible;
Law 2: Everything is an opportunity. The challenge is to convert the problem into an opportunity; and
Law 3, worded as only Ivan, in his colourful way, could, to explain the need to always add value: There is always room for ice cream, especially chocolate ice cream.
So we take our leave of Ivan with love and gratitude for a life of huge value, who added value to each of our lives. His legacy will be complete if each of us can continue to add some of that value in the way we live our own lives.
Last changed: Jan 14 2011 at 8:02 AMBack