Stellenbosch University (SU) has paid tribute to Desmond Smith, who recently passed away. Smith served on the University's council for twelve years, including six as chairperson. In December 2021, SU awarded its prestigious Pro Bene Merito Medal to Smith for his contribution to the University. This medal is awarded to persons for exceptional service and the promotion of SU's general interest at local and international levels.
An alumnus of SU, Smith (BSc, FASSA) has been involved with the University for almost thirty years. He also served as director of University of Stellenbosch Enterprises (USE) since December 1999 and as chairperson of USE since July 2002. He served as a trustee of the Stellenbosch Trust since 1999 and has added significant value via the Advisory Board of the University of Stellenbosch Business School since 2003. He chaired the board of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) since its inception, where his stature in the business world and intimate knowledge of the academic environment provided a reassuring gravitas to numerous stakeholders and enabled him to facilitate delicate negotiations. During his term, the Institute gained international recognition and made great strides in financial sustainability. Smith also served on the University's investment committee for twenty years.
Awarding him the medal in 2021, Prof Wim de Villiers, SU's rector, and vice-chancellor, said Smith has not only excelled in his career and shown outstanding leadership but, guided by the words of Sir Francis Bacon*, lived his life with purpose, "indebted" to the institutions that have shaped his life and the actuarial profession that has provided him with the vast opportunities he has enjoyed.
Smith was actively involved on the USE board which manages the University's substantial group of companies and provided advice to the Innovation and Commercialisation Division of SU (Innovus and SUNCOM). Under his chairmanship and guidance, SU became a significant force as an entrepreneurial and innovative university. He also served as chairman of SBS Ed (Pty) Ltd, one of the companies in the SU group.
"Desmond had a brilliant mind, a sharp wit, and a kind heart that endeared him to everyone he met. He was a remarkable chairman, advisor, and friend. He will be deeply missed and remembered for his unwavering dedication and commitment to Innovus," says Anita Nel, Chief Director of Innovus.
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