Professor Colin Gardner was born on 26 June 1933, in London, Britain. He came to South Africa with his parents in 1947. He matriculated at Maritzburg College, Pietermaritzburg, Natal (now kwaZulu-Natal - KZN). After graduating from Natal University (now University of kwaZulu-Natal - UKZN), he went to Oxford University, England as a Rhodes scholar.
He lectured briefly at the University of South Africa (Unisa) in Pretoria and in 1959 joined Natal University (Pietermaritzburg campus) as lecturer in the English Department. He became Professor of English in 1972, then Head of Department and after that Dean of Arts at Natal University. He was appointed Natal University Orator in 1981. He retired from the University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg) in 1997. He was active in the Students Catholic Union from 1951, and later in other Catholic organisations.
Professor Gardner was an active member Liberal Party of South Africa (LPSA) and a very close friend of the 1956 LPSA leader, Alan Paton. Gardner edited a collection of Paton’s shorter pieces, Knocking on the Door, in 1975. The two friends disagreed strongly about sanctions against South Africa, Gardner being in favour of, and Paton against sanctions.
Professor Gardner joined the Christian Institute (CI) which was started by the Reverend Beyers Naude. He was also a member of the Justice and Peace Commission in the Catholic Church where he worked closely with Archbishop Denis Hurley.
He led the Detainees’ Parents Support Committee in Pietermaritzburg and was a member of the Natal University Joint Staff Association when it affiliated to the United Democratic Front (UDF) and became vice-chairman of the Natal Midlands region of the movement.
In 1989, he was a member of a delegation of South African academics who met with the African National Congress (ANC) in Lusaka, Zambia. A year later he joined the ANC and became a member of its Policy Studies Committee and met, again, with the ANC in Lusaka.
Professor Gardner was an ANC member and Speaker of the Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) Council. He was also chairman of PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness).
Professor Colin Gardner died on 10 October 2013, in Pietermaritzburg, kwaZulu-Natal.
• Naidoo N. (2013). Colin Gardner, academic, politician, activist dies from The Witness, 11 October online. Available at www.witness.co.za . [Accessed on 30 October 2013].