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UWC alumni honoured for their commitment to higher education

UWC alumni honoured for their commitment to higher education

Braving the cold and rain, Ministers, education specialists and experts in various fields turned up in numbers to celebrate and honour Rectors and Vice Chancellors at the inaugural Chancellor’s Dinner and Outstanding Alumni Awards Ceremony at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) tonight.

The eight awardees – the late Professor Russel Botman, Professor Brian Figaji, the late Professor Jakes Gerwel, Professor Jonathan Jansen, Professor Nicholas Morgan, Professor Brian O’Connell, Dr Franklin Sonn, and Professor Derrick Swartz – were honoured tonight for their outstanding achievements and dedication towards driving academic excellence in the sphere of higher education. 

All recipients are UWC alumni who had gone on to become Rectors and Vice Chancellors at various further education institutions around South Africa.

“… this year is a special year – as we celebrate 20 years of democracy in South Africa, we recognise that UWC has played a significant role in developing our country, from being part of the pre-1994 negotiations, to drafting our Constitution and other significant laws, to producing students who have gone on to discover new challenges and lead significant changes in our society.

“This year we particularly recognise alumni who went on to become Rectors and Vice-Chancellors of South Africa’s universities and other institutions of higher learning, and who opened the doors of learning to thousands of marginalised students during the apartheid years and beyond.

“Each of these Vice-Chancellors has made a significant contribution to the institutions that they served or are currently serving, and to the wider academic community of South Africa. Their contributions to higher education cannot go unnoticed, and so for their service we salute them,” said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Chancellor of UWC. 

It was an emotional evening as the various Vice Chancellors recalled their time at UWC and communicated their appreciation of this recognition.

For instance, Professor Figaji said that this was quite an amazing event for him – not only for being recognised but for being recognised alongside such esteemed peers.

Professor Jansen, on the other side, spoke of the difficulties he faced and how studying at UWC taught him how to persevere and to be resilient.

Mrs Botman, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband Professor Botman. She said that while Professor Botman did not live his life to get recognition, the recognition of UWC would have meant a lot to him.

While the event was to honour the eight aforementioned Vice Chancellors, guests were surprised by the announcement of another award in special recognition of Professor Richard van der Ross decided by the other awardees. `

Archbishop Makgoba also said a heartfelt thank you to Professor O’Connell – who will be retiring at the end of the year as Vice Chancellor of UWC – with the words, “Thank you – as you retire and passing the baton on, I want to say, well done great faithful servant. The citation from Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium says, ‘Commander of the Order of Leopold II’. We greet you, Commander Professor.” His words were followed by a standing ovation for Professor O’Connell.

Professor O’Connell stated in his acceptance speech, “I am very proud of being the Vice Chancellor for 13 years at UWC – there is no greater honour.”