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Retirement gift becomes R40 000 donation to chemistry outreach initiative
Author: Media & Communication, Faculty of Science
Published: 15/04/2019

​​​​​​​​​​A donation of R40 000 from Prof Wolfgang Mackenroth, former vice-president of BASF, and the international charity organisation, Kiwanis, was handed over to the Stellenbosch University Chemistry Outreach Initiative (SUNCOI).

Prof Mackenroth's long-standing relationship with Stellenbosch University (SU) dates from 1984, when he was the first full-time international postdoctoral fellow in Prof Ben Burger's research group in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science. Since then, he has visited the Department annually for collaborative research projects as well as training of postgraduate students. He was recently appointed as an extraordinary professor.

Prof Mackenroth says he first learned about SUNCOI four years ago, when Prof Klaus Koch (then head of the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science) invited him to one of the SUNCOI practicals hosted in the department's chemistry labs.

“My daughter, Alexandra, has also recently visited Stellenbosch University to complete an internship with Prof Catharine Esterhuysen, and was a volunteer at one of the SUNCOI events, an experience which made a huge impression on her," he says.

So when the time came for him to retire as vice-president from BASF, he decided to opt for a “braai" away from the office and asked colleagues and guests to make donations to SUNCOI instead  of the usual gifts of wine and flowers. Kiwanis, an international charity organisation of volunteers who aim to empower communities to improve the world by making lasting differences in the lives of children, then added to the donation. The final amount of R40 000 was finally donated to SUNCOI during a special handover ceremony in the De Beers building on 27 March 2019.

Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus, one of the co-founders of SUNCOI in 2013, welcomed the donation, saying it will contribute greatly to the sustainability of the project: “With this donation we will be able to host at least two SUNCOI practicals for approximately 150 learners this year."

More about SUNCOI

Founded in 2013 by Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus with strong support from the then Head of the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, Prof Klaus Koch, the Stellenbosch University Chemistry Outreach Initiative (SUNCOI) aims to assist high schools from less privileged areas to perform chemistry experiments as prescribed by the new CAPS curriculum. These schools do not have the infrastructure or the resources to offer practicals to the learners. Learners and teachers then do the experiments in one of the university's fully-equipped laboratories, with the assistance of postgraduate student volunteers.

Since 2013, SUNCOI has benefitted more than 1800 learners and 350 teachers, and in 2018 the initiative has been rolled out to the University of Pretoria and Nelson Mandela University.

In September 2018, Dr Malgas-Enus received the Excellence in Science Engagement award from the National Research Foundation for her outstanding contributions to public engagement with science and for making science and technology more accessible to the public.

On the photo, from left to right, Prof Klaus Koch and dr Rehana Malgas-Enus from the Department of Chemistry a nd Polymer Science, Prof Louise Warnich, Dean of the Faculty of Science, and Prof Wolfgang Mackenroth, former vice-president of BASF. Photo: Anton Jordaan