“A graduation is a celebration ceremony - a time to reflect on one’s achievements, and the future of one’s life and career. But as you graduate today, please take time to thank those who have stood by you - lecturers, parents, bursars, family, friends and peers. Your success is their success.”
Those were the words of Frederick Robertson to his fellow graduates on 12 April 2016, when the University of the Western Cape proudly conferred an honorary doctorate in Commerce on the respected businessman and philanthropist at the Autumn Graduation Ceremony.
Praising UWC for the significant contribution it makes in building intellectual, technical and academic capacity for South Africa and beyond, Robertson said it was a special privilege to address graduates, and thanked the University for the great honour.
“I am humbled, and I accept this extraordinary honour with great humility and pride. I promise to uphold the values of the institution and commit to being a selfless servant of the University of the Western Cape,” he said.
Born in District Six, where he spent most of his childhood and teen years, Robertson started his entrepreneurial ventures at an early age by selling fruit and vegetables, newspapers and fish door-to-door, and chips, chocolates and ice cream at the Avalon Bioscope. After completing his schooling he embarked on a career in education before entering the insurance industry as a broker for Old Mutual. In 1990 he started his own business, a one-man insurance brokerage which eventually grew into an integrated group with interests in insurance, investment, asset management and property.
But Robertson is perhaps best known as co-founder and current Deputy Chairman of Brimstone Investment Group Corporation Limited, a company that controls over R8-billion in assets and has created over 500 millionaires in its 21 years of existence. The company has a simple philosophy: Be Profitable, Empowering and Have a Positive Social Impact.
Robertson shared a few key secrets to success with the assembled graduands, explaining the simple guidelines that took him from selling fish to owning a fishing company.
“Believe in yourself and your dreams,” he said, “and dream big dreams. Be brave. Be passionate. Expand your knowledge continuously - this graduation is not the end of your education, but hopefully the start of further learning. Keep good company. Don’t give up - if you fall down, you have to pick yourself up again. And give back to your family, your community, and your alma mater.”
South Africa: The journey is just beginning
South Africa has come a long way in the 22 years since democracy dawned, Robertson noted, and the last year has been a significant year for South Africa and our student movement, signalling the power of moving with the times and embracing new media and technology (“Personally, I learnt the power of the hashtag,”, he remarked).
But the country is still in dire need of help, direction and a new vision and moral compass - and the new UWC graduates have what it takes to play a part in providing that.
“In the history of South Africa, the student movement - and UWC in particular - raised their voices, demanding change. They were the beacons of hope for the South Africa that we dreamt of,” Robertson said. “I take this opportunity to challenge all our graduands - myself included - to uphold the ethical values acquired from this institution, to endeavour to serve society selflessly and strive to make South Africa a better place for all.”Robertson is one of three honorary doctorates for 2016, alongside media legend Mathata Tsedu and prominent businessman Hassen Adams.