I am sitting at something called the H3D symposium. This evening I had a great conversation which has left me energised and hopeful. The conversation was with Kelly Chibale.
Kelly co-supervised my PhD. When I began as his student in 1999 he was just starting out. A Zambian who had gone from working in an explosives factory to a PhD at Cambridge. He postdoced with the best and the brightest and returned to Cape Town with a vision to make a contribution to science in Africa. I could be wrong, but think the first paper we published together was his first paper as an independent academic.
Today H3D, the drug discovery spawned from his lab employs just over 50 people! He is also warden of Smuts House at UCT.
This evening, we had an amazing conversation, about politics and life and hard work. But above all about the importance of building and sustaining relationships. I know Kelly has his detractors, but if there is an example in my life of the fact that one person with a vision and sustained effort can make a difference in our world – Kelly is the man. And most importantly, in a crowd of 170+, he fended off the distractions of at least a few international guests to continue the conversation we were having.
Even if he had achieved 1/10th of what he has managed to create, he would still be a role model for me, because above everything, he values people. Regardless of whether they contribute to his vision or not – he values people.
When I had worked in spirituality for four years, and then emailed him to ask if I could get back into chemistry. He responded that day to say, come do a postdoc in my lab – He values people.
At a time when I am feeling a little overwhelmed by potential threats, I am deeply grateful that I know this man. There is hope for our world, if we could all value people to this degree.