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Joy Sundgaard Kaiser, Class of 1947

Joy Sundgaard Kaiser, Class of 1947, established the nonprofit organization MESAB, Medical Education for South African Blacks, which for more than two decades funded education for disadvantaged South Africans in health care-related fields.

Joy her husband, Herb Kaiser, launched the scholarship organization in 1985 after having lived in South Africa during the height of apartheid.

“When Herb retired in 1983, we began thinking about ways that outsiders could help blacks in South Africa. We knew that apartheid had to end sometime, and we thought that training blacks for leadership roles in a post-apartheid society should begin,” said Joy.

Over the course of two decades, MESAB helped more than 10,000 blacks become health professionals or enhance their skills. It also promoted palliative care training of caregivers for the millions of black South Africans stricken by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. MESAB closed its doors in 2007.

In 2004, the Kaisers received honorary doctorates of science from Swarthmore College, where both Joy and Herb were history majors. Joy received a bachelor of arts degree from Swarthmore in 1951.

According to the Honorary Degree Citation: “Joy and Herb Kaiser, after an active career in the Foreign Service, you jointly dedicated your lives to creating opportunities for medical education for Black South Africans, founding and building a stunningly successful philanthropic organization that has literally created a new generation of healers for that nation.”

In 2013, the couple published a memoir of MESAB titled Against the Odds: Health and Hope in South Africa.
Herb and Joy were married for 68 years before his passing in March 2018. Joy, who resides in Palo Alto, was the recipient of a Hamden Hall Alumni Achievement Award in 2011.

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