Start main page content

Wits honours Sir Jack Zunz

- Kemantha Govender

Sir Jack Zunz has received an Honorary Doctorate of Science in Engineering.

Sir Jack Zunz received an Honorary Doctorate of Science in Engineering from his alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, just two weeks before his 92nd birthday. Mr James Oppenheim from Arup Johannesburg accepted the award on his behalf.

Zunz, known for leading the Arup team that solved the immense engineering challenges of the Sydney Opera House, graduated in Civil Engineering from Wits in 1948. The honorary degree will be conferred on Zunz for his vast contribution to engineering and the built environment. He is also known for his philanthropic initiatives, implemented through the Ove Arup Foundation.

Zunz joined the Ove Arup in London in 1950, returning to South Africa in 1954 to establish an Ove Arup office with fellow Wits graduate, Michael Lewis in the country.  The firm was awarded the design of the 237 metres high Sentech Tower in Johannesburg. This structure required state-of-the-art engineering in its day. The tower can resist winds of up to 200 km/hour and is able to deflect as much as two metres without damage. Zunz was tasked with the overall engineering leadership of the Sydney Opera House project when he returned to London in 1961. 

Zunz led the design of many other structures with some of the most famous architects of the day, including Britannic House for BP, the Standard Bank Building in Johannesburg with its hanging floors, the Emley Moor Transmission Tower (then the tallest structure in the UK), the iconic Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Headquarters and the Stansted Airport Terminal.

Zunz became chairperson of the Ove Arup group from 1977 to 1984 and later co-chairperson of the firm globally from 1984 to 1989. The Jack Zunz Scholarship was established to provide advanced study opportunities for talented young engineers globally.

Some of Zunz’s accolades include:

  • He was Knighted (Knight Bachelor) in 1989
  • Institution of Structural Engineers Gold Medal (1988)
  • Honorary Doctor of Engineering from University of Glasgow (1994)
  • Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Western Ontario (1993)
  • Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1966)
  • Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers (1965)
  • Fellow City of Guilds Institute (1990)
  • Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1990)
  • Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (1983)
  • Honorary Member of the Architectural Association (2011)
  • Oscar Faber Silver Medal (1968) and Oscar Faber Bronze medal (1988)
  • Honorary Fellow of Trevelyan College, Durham University (1996)