When Gerben Draaijer – recipient of the 2018 CGW Schumann Medal for the best postgraduate student in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences – had to decide what he wanted to study, he knew it “had to be something to do with numbers and figures".
And numbers also tell the success story of his time as student in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Stellenbosch University (SU).
According to Prof Garrett Slattery, head of Actuarial Science, Draaijer's academic performance in his four years of study, during which he obtained both his undergraduate (2016) and honours degrees (2017) cum laude, was truly exceptional.
“While it is not uncommon for exceptional students to score over 90% for some modules, Mr Draaijer scored over 90% for most modules in his Bachelor's degree, with his average mark being in the mid-90s and with several module marks of 100%.
“He was the top student in his honours year too and was recommended for all of the available exemptions from the examinations of the Actuarial Society of South Africa based on performance in equivalent university modules."
“Since the year 2000 we have only had three other students who performed at a level comparable to that of Mr Draaijer, two of whom were recipients of the Chancellor's Medal," Prof Slattery wrote in his motivation.
Draaijer maintains there is only one way to do well academically and that is to work hard.
“It is also important to have a plan and to be outset-orientated rather than time-orientated."
Draaijer had, however, not spent his whole university career in front of his books. He was a member of the house committee of Dagbreek men's residence as well as the class representative of the Actuarial Science honours class in 2017.
Hy also served on the management team of the Dempers Meyer mentorship programme for grade 11 learners form previously disadvantaged backgrounds between 2015 and 2017. In 2016 he travelled to Transkei as part of an outreach team to present a winter school for matric learners.
“I feel it is important to try and give something back because I realise not everybody has the same opportunities. It is also rewarding to have an impact on people's lives. At the end of the day you always get more than you give, though. This keeps you humble and makes you realise the value of relationships."
One of his ambitions for the future is to make a positive difference in South Africa.
Draaijer, who is currently working at KPMG in Cape Town, considers it a great privilege to have been awarded the Schumann Medal – named after the faculty's first dean and awarded annually since 1986.
His father Attie, mother Carina, sister Lize, and girlfriend Chané attended the event hosted on 27 July with him.
“Each of them made an important contribution towards this achievement, so it was very special to be able to share it with all of them," he said.
Photo: Anton Jordaan