Stellenbosch University (SU) conferred its second highest award, the Pro Bene Merito Award, on the outgoing chancellor of SU, Dr Johann Rupert, on Tuesday November 19.
Dr 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.
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 Dr Rupert’s two terms in office as chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, SU rector and vice-chancellor, said Dr 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.”
Professor 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 have helped the university significantly towards realising its vision.”
He added that he found Dr Rupert’s conviction that both the university and the town should not be insular but instead to “think big”, particularly inspiring.
Professor De Villiers also announced that Dr 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 January 1 2020 to December 31 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, Dr 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 Professor Russel Botman, former SU rector and vice-chancellor, was inspirational in him accepting the position as chancellor and pledged his support to the university, Professor De Villiers and the incoming chancellor, Judge Edwin Cameron.
Dr Rupert also urged the university to use the “incredible minds” at the institution to solve South Africa’s problems.
The chair of council, George Steyn, gave an overview of the university successes “on Dr Rupert’s watch” saying 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, and across the globe.”