With Stellenbosch University (SU) stalwart Prof Pieter von Wielligh recently being appointed the new director of the School of Accountancy, it should come as no surprise to discover that this dyed-in-the-wool Matie is dead set on positioning the School as the number one choice for accountancy students in South Africa.
Von Wielligh took over from the retired Prof Pierre Olivier, who had served in the position for over 15 years, on 1 August 2019.
“I am eternally grateful to my predecessor, who is also my mentor in many respects and a friend," said Von Wielligh. “Prof Olivier played a fundamental and pivotal role in the history of the School of Accountancy. Under his visionary leadership and management, we grew from a rather small fish in the pond of universities accredited by professional bodies, to a key player in the education of professional accountants in South Africa."
Having previously served in the director role in an acting capacity for 15 months, he said the position is all he envisioned it to be.
“I am thoroughly enjoying the new challenges and change of scenery presented by my new role. Being in charge of a staff complement of more than 90 is immensely rewarding, although it obviously also comes with its challenges. I also enjoy being directly involved in the management of the faculty," he said.
“When I joined academia, I mainly wanted to lecture and change the future for students in my own little way. I never dreamed that I would ever be in a position that comes with so much trust and responsibility as that of the director of the school. I am very appreciative of and humbled by the responsibility entrusted to me in my new role, which is to hopefully make a much more wide-reaching contribution to what I truly believe in - the empowering impact of education in society," he added.
Von Wielligh's involvement in the School started on 1 August 2000 when he was appointed as a senior lecturer in the then Department of Accounting. He obtained his PhD in 2005 and was promoted to full professor on 1 September 2008. In 2016, he became the deputy director of Learning and Teaching of the School of Accountancy.
The SU alumnus – he completed his BAcc (cum laude), BAccHons (cum laude), MAcc and PhD studies at his alma mater – makes no bones about his vision for the School for Accountancy.
“I want the School to become the number one pick among prospective accountancy students from all over South Africa. I want its well-rounded alumni to consistently achieve excellent pass rates in professional examinations and to be well-equipped for the challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution," he said.
He also wants the School to make a tangible difference in local and national society through its research and social impact initiatives.
He believes that a happy workplace equals a happy workforce. He aims to create a work environment where staff works together as a team and where “inputs, different points of view and even disagreements are seen as positive contributors to the discourse that is such a vital element of academia".
The former DF Malan High School learner counts among his heroes the late Nelson Mandela and Desmond Smith, the previous managing director of Sanlam and one of his mentors.
“I define success for myself as doing the best I can with the talents with which I have been blessed. I am a driven and ambitious person in both my career and personal life and really believe that ambition fuels success," he said.
Von Wielligh is an avid road runner and walker and escapes to the white shores of the Greek Islands at least once a year.
- Photo supplied by the School of Accountancy: Prof Pieter von Wielligh