Dr Mary Jean Scott Silk


8 NOVEMBER, 1931 – 30 JUNE, 2015

mj scott silk

It is with great sadness that we mourn (Dr.) Mary Jean Scott Silk’s passing. She is survived by her 3 children, John now in Atlanta Georgia, Roland from Atlanta Georgia, Carol from Grand Lake Colorado, and their families.

Mary Jean Scott Silk was born in Brooklyn, New York in the United States on 11 Nov 1931.  She attended Packer Collegiate, a college preparatory school and later graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1952 with a Bsc. in Mathematics. In 1958 she graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Phd. In Nuclear Physics. Few women entered these fields back then and Mary Jean paved the way for many who came after her. Her next stop was a job at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, England where she met Edward Silk who also had a doctorate in Physics. They were married in 1959 at the Parish Church of Buckland in Berkshire England. Edward was born in Bulawayo in 1929 and lived in South Africa for most of his life. Edward and Mary Jean moved to South Africa in October of 1960 and intended to ultimately move to the United States, however three children and good employment soon resulted in a comfortable and entrenched lifestyle. They were both involved at the University of the Witwatersrand where Edward was a senior lecturer in the physics department and Mary Jean also lectured there from time to time.

Mary Jean was the Honorary Principal Medical Physicist for the Hillbrow Hospital and later the Johannesburg Hospital. The title “Honorary” was due to the fact that she retained her American Citizenship and as a result was always on 24 hour notice of having her employment agreement nullified and did not receive any benefits. It wasn’t until the new South African government and constitution came about that Mary Jean was even eligible for a pension.  Mary Jean has contributed to saving many lives from cancer over the years and was a staunch believer in the field of medicine. During her career she trained a number Medical Physicists, many of whom took their skills overseas and many who stayed in South Africa.  Dr. Scott, as she was insistent on being known in professional circles, also wrote the Radiation Therapy Procedure Manual which is still being utilized in South Africa and various other African countries. Dr. Scott attempted to retire from the hospital several times and ended up continuing to work after various replacements fell through. One of her students, is currently in the position and had maintained a close professional and personal relationship with her. Dr. Scott continued to consult after her final retirement in 2001 and served as an external marker on exams.

Mary Jean was most certainly a distinguished scholar but also a deeply spiritual person. She contributed in many ways to the Anglican Church. From 1964 to 1967 she served as the Secretary-Treasurer for the Fellowship of Anglican Teachers. In 1966 she was first elected to the parish council of St. Mary’s Cathedral where she served some 10 terms as parish counselor and 12 years as a Church Warden and then as Church Warden Emerita until her passing. She also served as a member of the Johannesburg Diocesan Council and as a representative to both Diocesan and Provincial Synods. Mary Jean edited the former diocesan newspaper “The Watchman” for five years and was deeply involved in the 1970’s and early 80’s with evangelistic outreach initiatives such as “Renew” and “Prayer and Praise”.  Mary Jean served as an advisor for the “Mission ‘70” outreach at Ellis Park and wrote a booklet “Holy Spirit Yesterday and Today” in 1975 which has since been widely distributed.

In 1991 she earned a diploma in theology with distinction from the Joint Board for Theology of Southern Africa. In 1997 she was awarded a Bachelor of Theology degree with honors by Unisa correspondence university. Mary Jean was widely respected for her contributions to and knowledge of, matters of Canon Law and played an important role in bringing about changes to the rules of the Diocese of Johannesburg on issues of governance as recently as 2003. For almost 30 years she has run an organization called “Home Intercessors” regularly sending the first names of about 200 sick persons with the brief updates on their conditions to 180 intercessors. She faithfully kept up the ministry even during her serious illness. In 2014 Mary Jean was awarded the “Order of Saint Simon of Cyrene” which is the highest award given for distinguished Lay Service to the Church of the Province of Southern Africa. Mary Jean was involved in so many areas of St. Mary’s Cathedral administration including the Finance and Executive Council and was greatly valued for her attention to detail, knowledge of the law, adhering to procedures and double checking at every level.  Other contributions to society included serving as the Weekly Eucharist at the Johannesburg Hospital and Organizing a flying doctor’s service to St. Michael’s Mission outside of Kuruman, South Africa.

Mary Jean was also a loving and devoted parent and mother. Mary Jean and Edward were married for almost 49 years and lived most of their lives in Oaklands, Johannesburg. Edward passed away on July 30, 2009 and both will be sorely missed.

Mary Jean did not believe in the division of humanity by race or color and was an eager supporter for equality for all. She was a mother who believed in manners and decorum, academic opportunity, achievement, giving to others and service. As parents, they made great sacrifices for their children which we appreciate every day. Mary Jean was a hard worker who wanted to be useful right until the end and she achieved that. She managed her own affairs and still contributed to the administration of St. Mary’s Cathedral right until a few days before she passed. Mary Jean had a loving, full, rewarding and productive life. May she rest in peace.

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