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Chair in Development Economics

- By Wits University

Wits University has been endowed with US$1 million (about R12 million) towards the establishment of a new professorship in development economics.

The San Francisco-couple, Derek Schrier and Cecily Cameron, made the donation through their US-based charitable foundation.

Held in the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management and headed up by Professor Vishnu Padayachee, Distinguished Scholar at Wits, the Derek Schrier and Cecily Cameron Chair in Development Economics aims to foster research into issues such as South Africa’s transition in relation to sustainable development and democracy, macro-economic policy, and corporate transformation.

Close ties with South Africa

Schrier, Chief Investment Officer of Indaba Capital Management, has had a close relationship with South Africa for more than 20 years. After graduating from Princeton University in 1989, he left Goldman, Sachs & Co. in 1992 to work with the non-profit CASE, led by Wits Professor Mark Orkin, in managing election polls for the African National Congress’s political campaign during South Africa’s first non-racial elections, until 1994.

“My time in South Africa impacted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I made the decision, at the age of 25, to come here,” says Schrier. “The experience helped shape who I am today; I am better off for it, and owe South Africa a debt of gratitude.”

Wits, a natural choice

Schrier says that the placing of the Chair at Wits was a natural choice. “Wits is and should be one of the most important institutions in Africa and is central to the future of the continent. Supporting a Chair in Development Economics is a pragmatic investment in the development of South Africa and the African continent.”

Urgent need to support higher education institutions

Named professorial endowments are much more common at the great universities in the United States than in South Africa.

Schrier and Cameron, former consultant with McKinsey & Co, met during their postgraduate studies at Stanford University.

They hope that the initiative will inspire similar endowments from others with meaningful ties to Wits, including its successful alumni in corporate and professional sectors. “Together, we can ensure that Wits continues its commitment to academic excellence, public discourse, and an engaged civil society,” says Cameron.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University, Professor Adam Habib, says: "We are particularly grateful to Derek Schrier and Cecily Cameron for their commitment to South African higher education. This Chair is important not only to producing high quality research but also to enabling that research to impact on policy and assist South Africa in building an inclusive society. We look forward to working with Derek and Cecily to open up further support from South African donors and philanthropists. There is an urgent need to support South African higher education if we are to retain our standing in the global academy."

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