Article - Office of College Advancement

Former student in parliament

By Andrew Cavette, Staff writer.

Thursday, October 11, 2007—Reprinted from Monitor.

Former Ohlone student Peter Hendrickse now serves in the Republic of South Africa's parliament. —Photo courtesy of

Peter Alroy Charles Hendrickse, a member of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, visited Ohlone’s Fremont campus on Mon day. Hendrickse attended Ohlone in 1978 and 1979 before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley.

He currently belongs to the Af rican National Congress political party and is the regional representa tive of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa. While attending Ohlone in 1979, he won the presi dency of the ASOC, making him the first foreign student to head a student body. Hendrickse will be visiting friends near Sacramento this week and decided to stop by the campus to see some of his old professors.

He also visited the president’s of fice. Assistant to the President Sarah Zentner met with Hendrickse.

“I was really impressed that a man from so far away, who had risen so high [in his own government] would have such fond memories of Ohlone. It was a wonderful day,” she said.

During a phone conversation Monday, Hendrickse said his favor ite class was the political science course taught by Alan Kirshner. “I enjoyed it tremendously [be cause of Kirshner’s] off-the-wall stories, which made the class very interesting,” Hendrickse recalled. Kirshner said Hendrickse was “a very good student…and was ac tively involved in the Democratic Party here.”

Hendrickse was a founding member and president of the Ohlone International Club. At least once a month, its members would get together, have a party and get to know each other. They would also discuss their experiences. “There were students from different coun ties; some were communist, some were socialist, some were capitalist, some Muslim, some Christian,” Hendrickse explained, “But we all loved music, we all loved food.” He also said that sometimes people would be from countries that were at war with each other.

“We were supposed to hate each other, but this was not the case,” Hendrickse said.

“I learned more [about America] outside the classroom than inside the classroom,” Hendrickse said. Coming to the United States from a small town in South Africa, where his father was a well-known activist and politician took some getting adjustment.

“Everybody knew my Dad, or me as the son of my father and then to come to the United States with 300 million people [where] not one person knew me… it was quite an adjustment,” Hendrickse explained.

Kirshner has meet Hendrickse’s father, Rev. Allan Hendrickse and described him as “sort of a Martin Luther King of his era.” In 1987, Allan Hendrickse was a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Pieter Willem Botha, who was a member of the right-wing National party. In a time of apartheid, A. Hendrickse became famous for swimming at a “Whites Only” beach to protest against the Separate Amenities Act. His son, Peter, came to Ohlone during a time of political turmoil in South Africa; a time when his family was not welcome at home. Kirshner said Peter Hendrickse was well known around campus “with very little ever being said about his father.” Hendrickse’s father died of a heart attack two years ago at the age of 77.

Kirshner thought Hendrickse would be an excellent candidate for the outstanding alumni award this year. “It’s not too often Ohlone can say they have [a former student as] a member of parliament in any country,” Kirshner explained.

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