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Rector’s Awards 2023: A night of triumph and celebration at SU
Author: Corporate Communications and Marketing (Hannelie Booyens)
Published: 10/10/2023

In the elegant setting of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), Stellenbosch University (SU) recently hosted the annual Rector's Awards for Excellent Achievement. The formal gala dinner celebrated the outstanding accomplishments of over 70 students in academics and co-curricular fields.

Guests were treated to a delightful culinary experience with exquisite food and wine complimented by lively music. Attended by Rectorate members, faculty deans, senior directors and student leaders, the night reflected the University's commitment to excellence.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Nico Koopman represented Rector and Vice-chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers in his absence and in a warm welcoming address, he reminded students and their families that they were deserving of all the compliments they were receiving at the Rector's Awards event. “Your achievements in academics, sport, service to students, leadership, culture and social impact are being honoured tonight and it's well-deserved. You're all senior students, so many of you were at the start of university life during a very uncertain time in the world. And yet, here you are, receiving recognition. You persevered and achieved something extraordinary," Koopman said.

Guest speaker Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela from the Centre for the Study of the Afterlife of Violence and Reparative Quest (AVReQ) brought home an inspiring message. She noted the diversity of the group of Rector's Award winners. “Tonight, we're showcasing a broad and wide-ranging student body at SU. I'm proud to be part of such an historical moment," she said.

Gobodo-Madikizela acknowledged the parents of the students who received awards and thanked them for providing their children with support, encouragement, and crucial values. In congratulating the Rector's Award winners, she highlighted the value of integrity. “The most important part of leadership is to inspire people to do and be better. By caring for people and uplifting others, you make them whole. Just by virtue of being here tonight, you are privileged. Carry your privilege with pride and grace, with elegance and dignity. Leave a memory of excellence and care. As you go out into the world to make it a better place, make your parents proud, and make us as Maties proud. Fly the flag of Maties high!"

One of the most inspiring awards of the night was presented to Firdous Sulaiman, a final-year student in Speech, Language and Hearing Therapy by Dr Choice Makhetha, Senior Director: Division Student Affairs. Sulaiman received a special award for Academic Resilience after overcoming major obstacles over the past four years. Makhetha explained that three years ago, Sulaiman was in a serious car accident that became a catalyst for major changes in her life. While receiving treatment, she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia. An educational psychologist at SU's Student Support Services, Lamese Chetty, suggested Sulaiman pause her studies while a treatment plan was developed for her. “Firdous is an example of resilience at its best. She now is an advocate for herself and her patients whom she provides with restorative support. Her values embody the values of SU," Makhetha said.

Sulaiman said the diagnosis of autism and dyslexia explained why she struggled for so long to achieve academic success. “I always just crawled through university; ended up not making it and came back to keep trying and trying in vain. The diagnosis helped me seek out the right help from professionals to learn coping skills in a world that is not made for neurodiverse people." She credited Chetty with helping her through her struggles and motivating her to excel. “The Excellence in Academic Resilience Award means a lot, because if anything, I am resilient," Sulaiman said.

In the category for Excellence in Leadership, Service to Students and Social Impact, Stanley Msiska said the award is a great honour and an encouragement to do even more. “It's SU saying 'Stanley, keep it up, you're not alone, we're here to support you'." Msiska is a PhD student in chemical engineering who was involved in developing a website application to monitor water quality to assist communities with sanitation.

One of the recipients of the Academic Excellence Award, Zindzi Douglas-Pederson said she was incredibly proud to receive the Rector's Award for top performance in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences as well as the Department of Political Science. “Studying at university, particularly in this country, is one of the greatest privileges we can receive as young people. As a student, I felt the least I could do was to work as hard as possible to make my family proud and to show my gratitude for the opportunities I've received at SU. I am incredibly grateful to all the people who have supported me along the way and am looking forward to the journey ahead as I prepare for my master's degree."

Jaco Wagener, an actuarial science student and Primarius of Eendrag Men's Residence, who received the Rector's Award for Excellence in Leadership, dedicated the award to his fellow residents. “It's a massive honour, not just for me but for all the work Eendrag's House Committee put in. The trust they had in me and recognising me with this Rector's award shows how much SU values leadership."

Finding out that she was going to receive a Rector's Award came as quite a shock, said Ali White, a student in the Faculty of Education. “It was a very big deal for me, not coming from a very academic background. At SU I found my niche and my bloom so to speak. What a privilege to be here tonight!"

  • Below is the full list of Rector's Award winners for 2023.


Engineering: Jean Louis van der Walt, Tian Cilliers, Nicolaas Visser, Danie Theron, Simphiwe Phetla, JPK Faure (Top Master's) and Jacques Wust.

Economic and Management Sciences: Sarah Christine Woolard, Joshua Murray Benadie, Liam Andrew Brain, Kirsten Lee Thompson, Nicola Ammon, Thomas John Janisch, Emma Bekker, Chelsea Smyth, Carly Londt, Kiara Petroné Pieterse, Callan Jake Hollebach, Hayden Graham de Kock and Christopher Guillaume Rossouw (Top Master's)

Arts and Social Sciences: Likhona Tokota, Jess Holing, Zelmarie Nicole Barnard, Dana Krimschanski, Zindzi Khaya, Douglas Pedersen, Samantha Cox, Grete Petronel Burger and Karmen Wiid.

AgriSciences: Kim Teresa Mannix (Top Masters), Lisa van Deventer, Jana Schreuder and Iksha Bhowon.

Law: Emma Dachs, Doné Botha and Denisha Padachey (Top Master's)

Medical and Health Science: Jesse Amoako Asimeng (Top Master's), Christine Vivier, Kayleen Esau, Faye Bure, Lume Koorts, Keri Lambooy and Suzanne Hugo.

Science: Jacobie Mouton (Top Master's), Bernardus Adriaan Wessels, Alexandra van der Spuy, Wicus Jan van der Linden, Emil van der Walt and Lisa Thea de Wet.

Military Science: Naledi Shelter Tibane and Palesa Victoria Mokgatla.

​Theology: Erick Zulch (Top Master's), Christiaan Brand and Irving de Swardt.

Education: Lynn Grant and Ali White.


LEADERSHIP: Margeaux Wassenaar, Caitlin Sithole, Vanessa Dede Annan, Marizanne van Dyk, Emma Bowers Swart, Kwenzokuhle Khumalo, Malaika Ngwenya, Elouise van Wyk, Kay Vanwolleghem, Margra Wevell, Jaco Wagener and Kayla Lourens.

SOCIAL IMPACT: Fanuel Shinedima, Gugu Gama, Rayhaanah Williams, Wonder Vuma and Stanley Chindikani Msiska.


SPORT: Anika du Plessis, Jana van Schalkwyk and Mire Reinstorf.