Blue Bonnets in Spring in Texas USA                Tulips of the Valley Festival, Seabird Island Canada
Dear <<First Name>>
From  the Editor
At midnight on January 16, I had the wonderful experience of watching a live stream of the School Assembly, where academic awards were given to boys in all grades, house prefects were introduced to the school, and to parents and visitors, and the Head Boy for 2017, Wandile Linde, addressed the school. What a mature and well spoken young man Wandile is!
His speech (link)  was firm, intelligent, confident and set the tone of his leadership for 2017. He thanked the school, and those who made it possible for him to attend Kearsney, for providing this opportunity to him. The school is in good hands with Wandile at the helm of the prefects---and how rewarding it is to know that the class of 1952, and the USA-Canada KCOB played a part in allowing this young man to reach the leadership potential he showed tonight, and will no doubt continue to show in his future. However, I also felt sad---sad because other deserving and bright youngsters like Wandile will never have the opportunity to benefit from a Kearsney education and all of the values that it provides, unless more of us old boys step up to provide the financial means for the school to award more bursaries.

My appeals in previous volumes of our USA and Canada KCOB Times have largely fallen on deaf ears—and I’m not sure why? We old boys are out here pursuing successful careers partly because of what Kearsney gave us—an education, inquiring minds, resilience, social graces, a sense of fair play. Why do so many old boys feel that supporting Kearsney is not important? I know that many of us support other causes—couldn’t we add Kearsney as one of our causes? Put that price of a cup of coffee into a jar each working day, and send that to Kearsney at the end of each year; we’d soon reach our goal of $550,000 by 2021—our centenary year-- and be able to give at least four more deserving students scholarships each year. Please be generous.

“Life is not to be lived for personal gain alone, but for giving back to others” Unknown

In this issue of our Newsletter, we are taking a different tack from our previous issues and focusing on IT and technology in general, and on a few of our old boys who have made/are making their mark in various areas of the technology spectrum, in the USA , the UK and in South Africa. Their stories are inspiring and fascinating—the stuff of science fiction!

My sincere thanks to Michael Aitken, Gary Astrup, Roger Fowler Wright, Stuart van der Veen and Nathan Pilbrough for giving of their valuable time to contribute to this issue of the Newsletter.

In future issues, we will be featuring old boys in a variety of fields, medicine, business, academics and others. If you have any thoughts of interesting professions that we can highlight, please let me or Athena know.

Michael Hall (Gillingham 1953)
(310) 702-1636 – LA, California
Editor: The USA and Canada KCOB Times
Chairman: USA and Canada KCOB Centenary Bursary Fund
Athena Fisher: Foundation Coordinator
Joy Mills-Hackmann: Foundation Director, co-Editor
Grant du Plooy: USA KCOB Branch Chair

USA-KCOB Centenary Bursary Fund
This is an invitation to you to Seize the Day!  You can get involved by clicking here
 Donating Directly from an IRA
In Volume 1 of our Times, I included information about the financial advantages of contributing directly to our Bursary Appeal from an IRA if you are over age 70-1/2 and are required to take an annual Minimum Required Distribution. My financial advisor recently told me that Congress has made this route of charitable giving permanent, rather than approving it on a year by year basis. This route of giving has some clear tax advantages, as well as disadvantages. Your personal situation will determine whether this is a giving route for you. Follow this link to read that article.

Please click on this link for complete information on how to make a tax deductible donation to the USA and Canada KCOB Centenary bursary through GBGM.

NEW! If you are not seeking tax relief, you can now set up a recurring annual or monthly gift via your credit card on the Kearsney Foundations donation site.


Editor: I notice from the above diagram, that the donors to our bursary fund come from Gillingham (yay!), Finningley and Pembroke. Come on Sheffield old boys! We know you are out there and are just as proud of our school as we G, F and P old boys are. Let’s hear from you! 
Wandile Linde, our head boy for 2017 is a Finningley boy and is supported by the USA and Canada Centenary Bursary Fund so your donation this year will go directly to supporting him, and in future years, to supporting other deserving students

Meet the KCOB Tech Team
Michael Aitken (Sheffield 2002)
I was born in Melmoth KZN and grew up in Assagay KZN. Both of my parents were entrepreneurs. My mother (Dee Aitken) ran/runs a nursery, and also a farmstall. My father (Dave Aitken) was a timber farmer, turned mushroom farmer, turned property developer in the Assagay Area ("The Mushroom Farm"

I attended Hillcrest Primary School until Standard 1, followed by Highbury Prep until standard 5. Both of these are feeder schools for Kearsney where I was a part time dayboy and part time boarder from 1998 through 2002. My older brother, Shaun (Sheffield 1998) was there so it was a natural fit for me; plus, I was lucky to get a scholarship. I participated in sports, playing for the 2nd rugby team as a lock, and for the 1st basketball team for 3 years, plus a few athletics medals here and there. Academically I came 4th overall in the Matric Exam in 2002.
After matriculating from Kearsney in 2002, my interest in technology drove me to study Computer and Electrical Engineering at UCT. In my post graduate years, I was very fortunate to be involved at the inception of a few state sponsored initiatives including the SKA Telescope and the Center for High Performance Computing. I graduated with a MS degree in 2008 shortly after meeting my future wife Tenille in Cape Town.
Tenille was committed to doing her accounting articles in Johannesburg, and we spent 4 wonderful (but grueling!) years living in Bryanston. During that time I started work as a network engineer for Ericsson installing data switching equipment in cellular networks within Sub-Saharan Africa. Frustrated by the conditions during the great recession of 2008/2009, I briefly switched to business consulting for a year, only to quickly figure out that pure consulting was not for me! A call with a fellow UCT alumnus connected the dots for me with US based (but SA founded) network technology company Netronome. With them I quickly gained experience in the field of software engineering applied to networking and high performance computing. Tenille and I were engaged in early 2012 and we immediately started looking for a change of scenery and opportunity for personal growth. Very fortunately both of us were in a position to pick a transfer, and a natural destination was Netronome's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In 2015, I grew tired of working on networking products that were rather distanced from physical reality, and wanted to cut my teeth on something more meaningful. As luck would have it, the ride sharing company, Uber, was moving to secure a team of robotics experts based out of Carnegie Mellon University (which is in Pittsburgh), with the goal of building a fully self-driving vehicle fleet. It turns out the computing challenges of autonomous cars was a natural fit for my experience with Netronome, whilst the robotics was something I had to learn about on the way. It's become extremely fulfilling to be working on technology that will have profound benefits to people everywhere. In business terms it's also a technology race with global stakes and it's fascinating both observing and being involved in how this plays out. I'm learning how messy and rewarding the innovation process can be! We now have a fleet of autonomous vehicles operating in multiple cities within the USA. It's always a great feeling taking a visitor for their first ride.
Our two year USA plan whizzed past us in a flash, and it's now been five years. Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, with a fantastic quality of living and a great sporting legacy. We are also lucky to have family in both Orlando and San Diego, sunny destinations to head to when we feel homesick (which is often) or the Pittsburgh winter starts to bite.
I feel Kearsney helped prepare me for my career in a few significant ways. Firstly, the Maths and Physical Science classes in Grade12 (then under Keith Decker and Joyce Broadbent ) were outstanding and gave me a headstart in engineering at UCT. Secondly, the competitive nature of Kearsney’s culture helped build a certain leather skin for the work environment that I’ve found continues to pay dividends for me time and again.
Tenille and I travel back to South Africa approximately twice per year to see our family and friends, soak up some Mzansi sun and to keep our spirits up. During these times, discussions in the Aitken household can get very technical as both my brothers, Shaun Aitken (Sheffield 1998) and Jamie Aitken are also engineers.
In our time in the North America, we've been lucky to have been visited by (or visited) a few Kearsney old boys including Gregg Wheelwright, Rylan Dobson and Philipp Damjanovic. I look forward to catching up with any other oldboys who would like to stop by and visit (we’ll have to hit downtown in an autonomous car).
 Uber articles:
News clip on our first self driving vehicle platform (Ford Fusion sedan):

News clip on our second self driving vehicle platform  (Volvo XC90 SUV):
Tenille Aitken, Mike Aitken (Sheffield 2002) and Gregg Wheelwright (Pembroke 2002) in Pittsburgh
Tenille Aitken, Mike Aitken (Sheffield 2002) Philipp Damjanovic (Gillingham 2000) and wife Carla with us in Pittsburgh
Kate Dobson, Tenille Aitken, Mike Aitken (Sheffield 2002) and Ryland Dobson (Sheffield 2002) in Vancouver 
Gary Astrup (Pembroke 1976)
I was born in Ndola, Zambia (formally Northern Rhodesia). I am the youngest of four children, I have two sisters and a brother.
My father was born in Durban and my mother in Edinburgh, Scotland. My father was an accountant and worked for an engineering company called Reunert & Lenz in Johannesburg. In the early 1950’s he was transferred to their branch in Ndola, Zambia where he remained for the next 22 years.

I attended Ndola Primary School prior to my arrival at Kearsney in January 1971 at the tender age of 10 years old. In those days Kearsney still had Form 1 or Grade 7. I moved into Dorm 1 of the “Old Block” at Junior House and so began my career there. Jannie Storm was our Housemaster and in no time we were immersed in the traditions of this great school. The first year was always going to be a challenge but soon friendships were formed and our daily life became a hectic whirlwind of activities in both academics and sports.

The sports that I was involved in were mainly swimming, water polo and rugby. I managed to make the 1st team water polo and 2nd XV rugby in my matric year.
After matriculating, I was too young for our National Service, so instead I attended Natal University where I managed to obtain a B.Sc. degree in Quantity Surveying. As soon as I had completed my degree, I then had to complete my obligation to the Defense Force and spent the next two years in the SA Navy obtaining the rank of Sub-Lieutenant.

Finally, with my National Service obligations behind me and a degree in my back pocket I moved to Gaborone in Botswana to pursue a career in quantity surveying. I spent the next ten years furthering my career there and enjoying a great lifestyle which included joining the local rugby club. I made some great fiends in Botswana and even bumped into a few Old Boys along the way.

By now, I was married to my wife, Denise and had three young children Lauren, Paige and Mark to look after and decided to return to South Africa to join a family engineering business in Johannesburg. My brother Ron, had built up a successful crane manufacturing business which was growing rapidly and needed some help in managing it. So began a career in engineering. A few years later, we sold this business and purchased the Company we now own, Park Plus.

Park Plus is a US based organization specializing in high density parking solutions with branches in Miami, Florida and California. We have installations along the East and West coasts as well as at many cities in between. We are the largest supplier of mechanical vehicle stacking and automated parking equipment in the United Sates. We provide solutions and support for turnkey operations, including services in Design, Engineering, Manufacturing, Installation and Service Maintenance. We supply equipment from your basic two-high mechanical stacker to multi-level fully automated robotic parking garages.

A new  state-of-the-art and exciting product which we have developed at Park Plus over the past few years is what is known as an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) system. The AGV devices are free-roaming, battery operated, omni-directional robots that travel on enclosed flat surfaces and communicate via a master traffic-control software program to manage parking transactions. Our systems utilize up to 50% less space when compared to conventional parking garages by eliminating the need for ramps and reducing the internal circulation drive aisles and space between cars. There is no public access to the storage vault which eliminates vandalism and theft. I would invite you to visit our web site , where there’s a ton of interesting information available.

In 2006 my son Mark (Pembroke 2010) started his first year at Kearsney; however, due to business requirements in the US, I re-located my family here in 2007. At the end of 2007 Mark was finding the schooling system in the USA totally different and wanted to return to Kearsney, so for the next three years, he commuted from New York to Durban. We now live in New Jersey about 30 minutes’ drive from Manhattan. Mark is finishing a business degree here and has worked part time at Park Plus, but has plans to follow his own career when he graduates.

Working in the US proved challenging in the beginning, I suppose. In South Africa, we are used to having help readily available whereas here you pretty much must do most things yourself which in a lot of respects is more rewarding. Much of our business is conducted in and around Manhattan, however places like Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago are becoming important locations as well, so I do a fair amount of travelling around the country.

Without a doubt, my time at Kearsney, the teachers, the friends I’ve made and the traditions have all played a role in shaping the person I am today. Kearsney taught me independence and respect for others amongst other things which have been invaluable tools and have helped me manage my businesses over the years.

Gary Astrup  (Pembroke 1976) in New York
Joy and Elwyn still speak of their heli flip in New York with Gary as a highlight of their 2012 USA Tour with the Kearsney College Choir
Stuart van der Veen (Gillingham 2004)
I’ve always been a lover of the abstract. I was born in Durban to a mother who hailed from Pietermaritzburg and a father from Zimbabwe (later Port Shepstone), and I guess that combination somehow brews entrepreneurial and artistic tendencies. Both of my parents are entrepreneurial—my mother started a successful corporate clothing business and my father is the managing director of Maxprop with a focus on commercial and industrial property. I have one very talented younger sister, Dale, who is an occupational therapist specializing in neuro and spine injuries. She is also a yogini who teaches in Johannesburg.
I attended primary school at Clifton under the headmastership of Kevin Whitehead, with whom I shared a strong rapport and who was very influential in my early second decade. Thereafter I attended Kearsney as a boarder from 2000 to 2004. My early years were tough as all I wanted to do was be in the art centre but over time, as I matured and leveraged the opportunities that the school offered, I started to find passions in science, accounting and mathematics too. These three, along with art, are bizarrely intertwined and formed the early basis of what I do today. Kearsney forged who I am by providing opportunity and friendship along with a demonstrated code of ethics.
After matriculation I studied for a Bachelor of Business Science and a Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting at UCT. I then completed my SAICA ITC and traineeship, and the IRBA Public Practice Exam with Deloitte, registering as a member of SAICA. In 2016 I participated in Singularity University's Executive Program focusing on the study of exponential technology and organisations that are impacting billions of people for the better.
I did a brief stint in London and Singapore and decided to found Paper Plane Ventures ( in late 2014, a consulting and ventures firm specializing in rapidly advancing technology. We cofounded the Exponential Africa Institute (, along with Stellenbosch University, to educate Africa’s key decision makers and rising stars about the impact that rapidly advancing technologies are going to have on 21st century Africa (e.g. networks and sensors, artificial Intelligence, additive manufacturing, robotics and automation, genomes and synthetic biology, distributed ledgers and cryptocurrency). Paper Plane Ventures assists organisations to identify, structure and implement experiments and partnerships across these technologies.
I currently live in Johannesburg but have been spending an increasing amount of time in San Francisco and the Bay Area investing in and working with organisations, from startups to established. For example I have just participated in Google’s Launchlab accelerator as mentor working with the best 31 startups from South East Asia, India and South America. 
(Editor: Launchlab is also available through Stellenbosch University:
We asked Stuart what inspired him to be in the tech industry?
I think it is the emerging narrative of optimism and human augmentation; how technology can change the way we do things, and also change us, for the better. 

Editor: What new and exciting technology is out there that you may be involved in, or that you found to be interesting, that Old Boys and current Kearsney students, would enjoy hearing about?
We're really interested in artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledgers right now. AI for augmenting human intelligence in industry and everyday life, and distributed ledgers for the roles it could play in societal trust. I can’t talk too much about this, but think ‘transfer of assets without intermediaries and voting without the threat of intimidation and cheating’.

Stuart van der Veen (Gillingham 2004)

Roger Fowler Wright. Finningley 1963

‘Carpe Diem brilliantly drove me to seize each opportunity’

Only in writing this, at Kearsney’s behest, have I come to appreciate what has been an extraordinarily diverse, creative and inventive design orientated career, which I’ve loved.

Before getting into my work with nuclear, missiles, submarines and electric car, it all started by emigrating to SA age zero from the UK, followed by 17 glorious-weather years. At the end of which an opportunity to attend a superb 3yr ‘Sandwich Course’ in London couldn‘t be missed. Once in the UK the immediacy of earning a living was paramount. With only basic self-taught electronics I eagerly hit the grindstone. Routinely walking 5.5miles each way to college to save every farthing, which I had to count and log nightly, as I only had £1 for travel, & lunch per week – an utterly inadequate sum even then! It was an exceptional, dynamic course and I gained an extensive understanding of electronics, electro-mechanics, metallurgy, productionising, manufacture, quality and testing.

Later when married, for relaxation my sons and I used to help the chief astronomer operate the huge 28inch telescope at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, usually at 1am! An historic experience … but this of course was years ahead 

Nowadays I have no cat, 1 ‘original’ wife, Vena, 2 sons and 4 grand-kids. Theoretically retired though highly active – well I’m only 70!


Nuclear reactor work was for the development of an instrument to measure the radiation levels throughout a reactor core, called a ball flux scan, and involved site visits and working immediately against the reactor containment vessel. Historically western nations tend to employ this machine and less so Eastern nations – hence Chernobyl!

Nuclear submarine and power station control kit may sound exciting unfortunately it was very drab, apart from a ballistic test that went dramatically wrong when a barrel exploded and a myriad of shrapnel ricocheted around the test ‘enclosure’ whilst I stood in the middle of it unprotected!

Fighter plane design work was wonderfully challenging on a pilot head-up visor project wherein my effort was with the intricate circuit arrangements to allow the visor to be raised and lowered. This involved some design work at a 40:1 scale.

Under-wing missile design work was to do with navigational stability and involved astonishing precision. Due to air friction, launched missiles heat up, thus on-board electronics & sensors must be protected. A more mundane task was designing electronic assemblies to withstand deforming high G-forces that such jets must endure.

For the forklift truck work there was an electric baggage truck provided to Buckingham Palace, aka The Buck Truck. A spare was kept at the factory and once when fitting a new set of electronics we powered up and frighteningly all the electronics blew-up. Forty bits flew off! A panic situation for such a prestigious vehicle. Hence I learnt about thorough and dynamic testing!

Thereafter I worked in an historic picturesque former corn mill on the Thames, a picture perfect tourist attraction, with a 14-man team undertaking secret design and research, where I was the electro-mechanical engineer. A wonderful experience. Read more

Top left to right: Electric car; Roger at Stonehenge
Bottom left to right: The Mill; Vena and Roger Wright
Nathan Pilbrough (Pembroke 2011) is studying for the MSc and PhD in Electrical Engineering at UCLA.
Editor: What advice would you give to students preparing for a career in any field of technology?
'If I could change one aspect of my studies at Kearsney, I would have taken IT as one of my chosen subjects.
I studied mechatronics at the University of Cape Town and the importance of programming immediately became apparent as it is used in all engineering fields in one form or another. Whether in mechanical, electrical, civil or any other field of engineering, theoretical techniques are practically implemented through some form of software package. Therefore, having the knowledge of how to implement and use software is an invaluable skill.  
The world is continuously developing and anyone who wishes to contribute to the advancement of technology will at some stage encounter programming and will have to implement or at least understand it. The rise of Facebook, Twitter and Uber has shown how companies can exist as completely virtual entities, the infrastructure of which is based on millions of lines of code. The great entrepreneurs who started these and other companies like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Bill Gates all started programming at young ages and fervently promote learning how to program. 
Even if one decides to follow a career path that is not directly related to programming, the logical reasoning skills that are acquired as a result of learning how to code are invaluable. My advice to anyone who is looking to pursue any technical career, especially engineering, is to take IT and learn how to program’.
 School News
Special Tradition -Tie ceremony: On Monday 23 January the Grade 8 boys were handed their ties by the Head Boy, Deputy Head Boy and the Heads of Houses in a special ceremony.  The boys earned their ties after a week of orientation and the completion of the Alverstone Hike and the meaningful  ceremony marked their official welcome to Kearsney by their peers. Follow Here
Culture@Kearsney Launch 2017: The artwork on display at the Culture@Kearsney launch highlighted the talent of the youth today. The Headmaster emphasized the importance of the arts in all industries.
Finningley upgrades:  Following the successful upgrade of Gillingham over the course of 2016, the College is excited to be embarking on an extensive upgrade to Finningley House in 2017. The upgrades will create a more modern and spacious facility for the boys and will ensure that our facilities remain world-class.  Old Boys, and brothers Warren (Finningley 1997), Daniel (Finningley 1993) and Grant Verbaan (Finningley 1994), Verbaan Construction Company, won the tender for the Gillingham House renovations and have once again won the tender for this project.
The boys celebrated their Matric Dance in style. Visit the Kearsney College Facebook page to view more photos on the following link

  Old Boy News

27 January 1933 – 01 December 2016
A tribute to Joe Hansen (Gillingham 1950)
Joe Hansen (Gillingham 1950) who lived in Kalamazoo and was a supporter of the USA and Canada KCOB Centenary Bursary Fund, passed away in December 2016. Below is a tribute to this beloved Old Boy.
As was the custom, boys at Kearsney were known by their surnames or nicknames. Very few of us knew a Christian or first name.  Joe Louis was the World Heavyweight boxing champion at that time in the 1950’s and Hansen was a boxer of some considerable skill and probably the best ever boxer to attend Kearsney and he was given the name Joe a name by which he was known for the rest of his life.
He was, in short ‘a good man’, one whom Kearsney was proud to call ‘one of it’s own’, and whom we will sorely miss. Michael Hall (Gillingham 1953)
Joe was no ordinary Kearsney Old Boy. He loved his old school dearly and took every opportunity to support Kearsney and to visit whenever he could. He was one of the first “more mature” Old Boys that I and my wife Tracey met within our first couple of years ay Kearsney and he remained a friend since. It was great to see him when he made it out to South Africa and also when we were able to tour abroad, he made the effort to link up with us.
Joe was generous in spirit and in kind and we acknowledge his support of the Bursary Fund which has allowed some of the finest young men to attend Kearsney. These boys would not have been able to attend Kearsney were it not for the generosity of Joe and his fellow Old Boys.
Today the Kearsney flag flies in front of the College at half-mast, in loving memory of one of Kearsney’s finest. We salute Joe Hansen – a mighty tree has fallen. Elwyn van den Aardweg (Headmaster Kearsney College)


Founders Weekend

For those gents celebrating their reunion’s this year the date is Friday and Saturday 16-17 June 2017


Booking Form


Black-Tie Dinner: Just EIGHT weeks before booking closes on 25 May 2017.




Founders Day Reunions are a great time to show your commitment to our school by donating to any number of school funds. We would hope that our USA and Canada old boys would be inspired by their visit to Kearsney and donate to the USA and Canada Centennial Bursary Fund, which is falling very short of its’ goal of raising $100,000 each year until 2021, our Centenary year. However, if you’d prefer to donate to a Class Fund, or to support the celebrated Kearsney Choir, or the Building Fund—it all helps to keep our wonderful school at the pinnacle of private school education. Many of us were only able to attend Kearsney because of financial support that the school provided to us; ‘pay it forward’ gentlemen and by your gift, assure that other deserving students will have the same opportunities that you had.




When the irresistible urge to donate hits you over the weekend, find Joy or Athena—they will be able to advise you on the various ways to do this.

Murray Polkinghorne (Gillingham 2011) visiting San Francisco whilst doing a research internship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for 2 months in the Cardiology and Regenerative Medicine Programme.
Murray Polkinghorne (Gillingham 2011) and Nathan Pilbrough (Pembroke 2011)
Our first candidate is Nathan Pilbrough (Pembroke 2011) who is looking for a paid summer internship in the electrical engineering field or in computer science.
His resume is on the following link. As you can see from his resume, Nathan is extremely qualified and would be an asset to any company that could use his educational expertise. It would need to be a paid position, particularly if Nathan had to relocate from Los Angeles.

Please contact Nathan directly if you are able to help. His contact information is on his resume.

Finally, we leave you with this message from the Kearsney College Choir

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Message sent by the Kearsney Foundation 
Joy Mills-Hackmann (Director), Athena Fisher (Foundation Coordinator), Kerry-Lynn McMaster (Secretary) | Tel: +27(0)31 765 9600 / 28 / 27 / 50  | Fax: 086 511 0594


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