Law faculty honours Prof David Butler

Prof Max Loubser, Judge Fritz Brand, Prof David Butler and Prof Gerhard Lubbe

Prof Max Loubser, Judge Fritz Brand, Prof David Butler and Prof Gerhard Lubbe

A special edition of the Stellenbosch Law Review, honouring the esteemed Prof David Butler, was presented at a special function in October. The function celebrated the contribution made by Prof Butler to various areas of the law, the Law Faculty and the university community. Judge Fritz Brand of the Supreme Court of Appeal, a former classmate of Prof Butler, was the keynote speaker.

David William Butler joined Stellenbosch University’s Department of Mercantile Law in January 1979 and worked there as its guiding spirit until December 2010 when he retired. He remains involved with the Department in his capacity as professor emeritus.

 David graduated with BComm (Law) and LLB degrees from Stellenbosch University in 1972. The latter was awarded cum laude. After graduation David was employed by Bisset, Boehmke and McBlain, a Cape Town firm of attorneys.

In 1979 the lure of academia became too strong for him when he was offered a position of lecturer in Mercantile Law at his alma mater. For the twenty years from his appointment as professor in July 1989 he was synonymous with Handelsreg. As a patient mentor of students and an inspiring teacher of Company Law, with a famously dry wit, he attracted the academic interest and personal loyalty of hundreds of “commercial students”.

It was inevitable that David would become the chairperson of the Department of Mercantile Law, a position which he occupied from 1989 until 2003, and again in 2009-2010. In this not always enviable role he displayed the ability to manage the day-to-day business of the Department, but also to innovate. One of his many achievements was the approval in 2001 of the unique joint BAcc LLB programme which offers outstanding students the possibility of choosing between the legal and the accounting professions.

As a member of the Faculty’s leadership he also played a key role in running and positioning the Faculty as a whole, particularly in its relationship with the University’s central administration. However, David remained primarily a teacher and researcher concentrating on his two first loves: arbitration and company law.

David has indeed become Mr Arbitration Southern Africa. Apart from teaching the subject, he presented workshops for the Association of Arbitrators of Southern Africa (of which he is a life fellow). His book and other texts on arbitration have become the standard in the field, and he has been the main advisor on the South African Law Reform Commission’s project on arbitration, aimed at the promulgation of a new Arbitration Act.

In May 1984 David married a fellow attorney, Ishbel Henry. His beloved wife and intellectual partner died in 2004, leaving him with daughters Jean and Katherine. David Butler is a man whose talents, principles and loyalty have earned him the respect of thousands of students and the friendship of hundreds of colleagues, inside and outside academia. Stellenbosch would be a poorer place without him. 

Article by Prof Andreas van Wyk

[former Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University and Dean of the Faculty of Law]



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