Almost 400 students in the faculties of Science, Education, Law and Military Science at Stellenbosch University (SU) received their degrees at the fifth March graduation ceremony on Thursday (22 March 2018).
At the ceremony, honorary doctorates were also bestowed on two highly regarded thought leaders – Baroness Christine van den Wyngaert, “an esteemed international academic and International Criminal Court judge", and Prof Brian O'Connell, “a formidable and visionary leader at all levels of South African education". SU's Centenary commemorations include the awarding of 13 honorary doctorates during the March graduation week. Both Van den Wyngaert and O'Connell delivered short speeches after receiving their degrees.
In his welcoming address at the event, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers said the graduation was a truly historic occasion, as it formed part of the University's Centenary year.
“Against the backdrop of valuable lessons from our complex history, our Centenary signifies a new beginning for Stellenbosch University. We strive to be a relevant institution that plays a key role in the development of our nation and our continent," he said.
Prof De Villiers reminded the audience that the Faculty of Science started out in a 1 m x 1 m space – the size of the wall cabinet in which its first scientific instruments were stored. Today, the Faculty has 170 laboratories in eight academic departments spread across 13 buildings on campus and empowers nearly 900 graduates per year with globally competitive qualifications.
“The Faculty of Education, in turn, is one of the four original faculties with which the University started out. Today, we are proud of its contribution to the improvement of education in the country. And, of course, the Faculty of Law occupies the beautiful Old Main Building, which dates back to the University's prehistory as Victoria College."
“In addition, our Faculty of Military Science is the only one of its kind in Africa, providing professional military education for the South African National Defence Force in accordance with an agreement with the Department of Defence, which has recently been renewed."
O'Connell's message to graduates was as follows: “If knowledge is electricity, you are the power source. You are the ones who will save the world. Hope must be followed by action." O'Connell also advised students to try and understand the past and keep their eye on the future, and to live by the slogan “Hope, action and knowledge".
Van den Wyngaert said she was “extremely grateful to be honoured with this award. Stellenbosch University is one of the best in South Africa, Africa and the world". She also said it was encouraging to see South Africa's achievements in the pursuit of human rights, and urged the country to remain active in the international justice realm.