Eusebius McKaiser: a tribute to a much-loved and brilliant Antonian

Eusebius McKaiser tragically passed away on 30 May at the age of 45.  

Known as ‘UB’ to his friends, he studied at St Antony’s between 2003 and 2006, first for the BPhil in philosophy before undertaking doctoral research on the moral responsibility of people for holding racist beliefs. He came to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, having previously excelled at Rhodes University in South Africa, and with an extraordinary range of achievements that included being a national chess and debating champion.  

He was much loved by the college community and across the wider university, lighting up any St Antony’s dinner or ‘late bar’ conversation with his command of logic and reason, and his willingness to engage in conversation with everyone. In an era when race equality, LGBTQ rights, and the legacy of Cecil Rhodes were seldom openly discussed in Oxford, he was a trailblazer in openly and unashamedly pushing for equality, diversity, and inclusion within Oxford.  

He won national debating competitions for the University and even for St Antony’s, and was an incredibly supportive and kind friend to many. I was privileged to be his Oxford debating partner for many competitions and coaching trips, travelling with him across Europe and North America. He truly inspired the many undergraduate debaters he dedicated his time to coaching and mentoring. 

It was after leaving Oxford that Eusebius became a superstar, both in South Africa and around the world. He became a broadcaster, author, and columnist – the public intellectual he was always destined to be. In his prime-time radio shows, delivered from Johannesburg, he was in his element delivering politically-engaged talk radio deliberately made accessible to a mass audience.  

He published ground-breaking books that confronted societal prejudices, notably A Bantu in My Bathroom: Debating Race, Sexuality, and Other Uncomfortable South African Topics, which opened up discussion about historically taboo questions for South African readers. Run Racist Run unpacked racism for South African and global readers. He toyed occasionally with the idea of going into South African politics, and was coveted by the main political parties, but believed his biggest contribution could be through keeping party politics at arms-length.  

Eusebius’ greatest legacy is perhaps his unerring commitment to giving people the tools to think critically and independently. He used his extraordinary platform of over half a million social media followers to encourage reading, debate, and rational thought – being open about his own journey, experiences, and vulnerabilities as a means to inspire others to be the very best human beings they could be.  

His reach stretched beyond South Africa, regularly appearing on CNN Amanpour or writing in the New York Times and Foreign Policy to translate the machinations of South African politics for a global audience. And yet despite stardom, he remained a true and loyal friend. He always had time for his Antonian friends, showing us his Johannesburg or meeting up when he was in Cape Town. I could hardly post on social media without him ‘loving’ and commenting on the post. He constantly encouraged me and those close to him to do better, and always made time to discuss both the serious and the banal.  

He continued to commit time to his alma mater. During the lockdown, he gave up his scarce time to speak to social science graduate students across the University on the topic of ‘race and anti-racism’. He embraced the opportunity to serve on the St Antony’s Equality and Diversity Committee and remained always proud of his connection to the University and the College.  

The world and St Antony’s have lost a truly great and wise human being. I, and so many others here in Oxford, have lost someone we were honoured to call a friend. 

Professor Alexander Betts (Antonian, 2003-7)

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