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Mlambo-Ngcuka, Appelbaum, Pharma and Wits champ to be honoured

- Wits University

Wits will recognise distinguished South Africans by awarding its prized Gold Medal and three honorary doctorates during its final graduations for 2019.

Wits University celebrated the start of the 2019 December graduations by awarding 150 PhD qualifications across all five faculties on Monday, 09 December 2019.

Of these, 39 are from the Faculty of Health Sciences. These graduates were lauded for their extraordinary dedication to understanding health conditions and alleviating suffering. The skills of these graduates, who hail from South Africa and across the continent, contribute to the health and the prosperity of all.

The Faculty of Humanities awarded 41 PhDs; the Faculty of Sciences, 36; the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, 19; and the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment awarded 15 doctorates.

The graduation ceremonies continue until Thursday, 12 December 2019 during which 2 273 Witsies will graduate across a range of disciplines, bringing to 9 798 the total number of students who, by Thursday, will have been capped in 2019.

During the December graduation period, Wits University will recognise distinguished South Africans by awarding its prized Gold Medal and honorary doctorates.

Leaders Mrs Wendy Appelbaum, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Dr Stavros Nicolaou, and Mr John Lonsdale Teeger will receive Wits honours. The honorary recipients will deliver keynote addresses which will also be streamed live via   

Mr John Teeger has made an invaluable contribution to the welfare of Wits University and strengthened its capacity to benefit from philanthropy. He is a long-serving President of the Board of the University of the Witwatersrand Fund Incorporated, an independent fundraising entity representing Wits in the United States. Teeger is a Wits champion and freely gives his time, talent and expertise to his alma mater. The University will award Teeger its highly prized Gold Medal.

Dr Stavros Nicolaou, a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, will receive an honorary Doctorate of Science in Medicine. Nicolaou was instrumental in developing and introducing the first generic antiretrovirals (ARVs) in Africa by persuading global pharmaceutical companies to give Aspen a license to produce these agents. He also led the negotiation of technology transfer for two key multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) products at the time when MDR and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) began to manifest in South Africa. These initiatives saved millions of lives in Africa. He is widely recognised in South African business circles for taking on leadership roles, particularly when these promote South Africa and the well-being of her people.

Mrs Wendy Appelbaum will be recognised with an honorary Doctorate of Science in Medicine for leadership in advancing economic and industrial development, uplifting health and welfare services, and  for her role in advancing culture and women empowerment. She has served for more than a decade as   a board member of the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. Her astute advice and strong leadership has expanded the training of specialists and sub-specialists in the country. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Fellowship in Gynaecological Oncology, the creation of an outpatient Women’s Health Clinic, and the Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine. In recent years, Appelbaum’s focus has shifted to social impact investing, including supporting two legal processes that have effected significant societal change. The first was a landmark case which she initiated into unsavoury business practices in the property auction environment. The second was around the legality of “garnishee orders”, where she supported a group of workers who challenged this practice in court. This resulted in a significant policy change, which not only benefitted millions of disadvantaged South Africans, but demonstrated that philanthropy and goodwill can influence disciplinary and policy practice.

Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will receive an honorary Doctorate in Literature in recognition of her commitment to women’s empowerment nationally and globally, social justice, education and service. As the Minister of Minerals and Energy, she was the driving force behind the Mining Charter, a tentative step towards meaningful participation of black business in the mining industry, and a notable step towards building an inclusive economy. Her appointment as the country’s first female Deputy President paved the way for sharper policies to unlock bottlenecks that suppressed economic growth – namely the Accelerated Growth Initiative of South Africa.

In 2008, Mlambo-Ngcuka established the Umlambo Foundation, a non-profit organisation that built a national network of academic, resource, and psychosocial support for principals leading rural and township schools. She is currently an Executive Director of UN Women and is responsible of protecting and promoting the rights of four billion women around the world. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated exemplary commitment to advancing human rights issues, standing up for equality and social justice, and relentlessly championing women’s rights through grassroots activism as well as leadership at an international level.  

Honorary graduands’ ceremony details:

Mr John Teeger – Wits University’s Gold Medal, 09:30, Wednesday, 11 December 2019 

Dr Stavros Nicolaou – Honorary Doctorate of Science in Medicine, 14:30, Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Mrs Wendy Appelbaum – Honorary Doctor of Science in Medicine, 09:30, 12 December 2019

Dr Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka – Honorary Doctorate in Literature, 14:30, 12 December 2019