Stellenbosch University (SU) last night (Tuesday, 19 November 2019) conferred its second highest award, the prestigious Pro Bene Merito Award, on the outgoing Chancellor of SU, Dr Johann Rupert.
- Watch a short video here.
- Read the commendatio here
Rupert was honoured as distinguished business leader, entrepreneur, conservationist and philanthropist – not only in South Africa but also internationally. He received the SU's highest award, an honorary doctorate, in 2004 already.
SU awards the Pro Bene Merito Award – in the form of a medal and certificate – under very special circumstances for exceptional service at local or international level. This could include the promotion of the University's interests, especially in the academic community; the creation of opportunities for studying and research for staff and students over a longer period; and the promotion of the general interests of the University or the broader society.
At an event held at the L'Ormarins Wine Estate in Franschhoek to celebrate Rupert's two terms in office as Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, stated that Rupert served the University over the last 10 years with great passion and commitment. “He has over the years been a major benefactor of the University, funding initiatives in various areas, including viticulture, law, sport, education, music and conservation."
De Villiers also said that in addition to being Chancellor and major benefactor of the University, SU has over the years greatly benefited from his facilitation and networks. “He has opened doors for Stellenbosch University that has helped the University significantly towards realising its vision."
He added that he found Rupert's conviction that both the University and the town should not be insular but instead to “think big", particularly inspiring.
De Villiers also announced that Rupert will take up an Honorary Professorship of International Business Practice at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) next year. He has been appointed for the term 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2022.
He will deliver a lecture annually, and also help to bring international thought leaders to the University for guest lectures.
In receiving the Pro Bene Merito Award, Rupert said that every moment of your life is important and has an influence on your life. “Don't think you're in charge of your own life. Life lives you, you don't live life."
He gave an overview of his time as a student and his career while also
paying homage to business partners and friends. He added that the late Prof
Russel Botman, former SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, was inspirational in him
accepting the position as chancellor and pledged his support to the University, De Villiers and the incoming Chancellor, Judge Edwin Cameron.
Rupert also urged the University to use the “incredible minds" at the institution to solve South Africa's problems.
At the event, the Chair of Council, Mr George Steyn, gave an overview of the University successes “on Dr Rupert's watch" saying that the institution which marked its centenary last year “has become a leading higher education institution making a very important contribution to human development in our country, on our continent, and across the globe. That makes us proud. The academic project – and therefore academic excellence – remains our priority."
He also referred to the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, saying that SU has again improved its position, placing the institution in the top 1% of universities globally. “We remain the most research productive university in Africa and the Department of Higher Education and Training recently confirmed that we have the best flow through and the second lowest first-year dropout rate in the country."
“Internationalisation has become a priority for us. The University now has 292 international partners in 63 countries on six continents," he said adding that there are now more than 4 000 international students."
Steyn also added that SU is broadening access so that the best students can and want to study here. “Since 2010, we have spent more than R800 million of our annual institutional budget to help finance undergraduate students by allocating an average of 28% of our main budget annually to bursaries and loans.
“We focus on our core business – to be an inclusive and innovative university that is recognised internationally. A place where excellent teaching and research take place that make the world a better place."