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Wits celebrates thousands of graduates this week

- Wits University

Wits honours two healthcare professionals who are changing the world for good.

Wits University celebrates the achievements of thousands of graduates at its December ceremonies which run from 12 – 15 December 2022. Two distinguished alumni - Professor Hazel Sive and Professor Aimee Stewart will be recognised for advancing healthcare in South Africa and beyond.

“We applaud all our students, including 165 PhDs, who through their effort and determination, are graduating this week. We encourage you to use the knowledge and skills that you have attained to change the world for good,” says Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi. “We also salute Professors Hazel Sive and Aimee Stewart for using their expertise and experience to advance healthcare in society.”

Professor Hazel Sive to receive honorary doctorate on 12 December in the Wits Great Hall

Johannesburg-born Professor Hazel Sive is renowned for her work into neurodevelopmental disorders, and will be awarded an honorary doctorate for her contribution towards promoting academic excellence and international partnerships. A Wits graduate, Sive is the Dean of the College of Science and Professor of Biology at Northeastern University, Boston. She is a highly respected teacher, mentor, researcher, and academic leader. As a teacher she has made a significant contribution in developing and delivering innovative undergraduate and graduate science programmes, predominantly at MIT. Throughout her academic career Hazel has developed and grown broad engagements with South African and African universities. These strategic initiatives in Africa have supported both educational and research collaborations leading to mutually beneficial partnerships and programmes. For example, the MIT-Africa internship programme facilitates an exchange between MIT and Uganda, Ghana, Mauritius, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya and South Africa. Approximately 40 Wits students work each year with the MIT students on a digital innovation and entrepreneurship programme which is run in partnership with the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct. Although she is based in the US, Sive is firmly committed to South Africa, Wits and the continent as evidenced by her efforts to build bridges that promote capacity building and that showcase local expertise. She graduated from Wits with a BSc in Zoology and Biology in 1976, and with a BSc (Hon) in Zoology in 1979 before pursuing further studies abroad. She earned her PhD at Rockefeller University in New York, followed by a period as a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. 

Professor Aimee Stewart to receive a Gold Medal on 14 December in the Wits Great Hall

A renowned physiotherapist, Professor Aimee Stewart will receive a Gold Medal from Wits University, which is awarded to individuals who have made a noteworthy contribution to the University or rendered exceptional service to the community. Stewart has played a pivotal role in curriculum design and the accreditation of physiotherapy in South Africa and beyond. Her ongoing involvement in national and international leadership roles continues to contribute to the discipline’s academic integrity and status. Some of her notable contributions include receiving a six-year National Research Foundation niche area grant to explore the management of chronic disease and disability, including HIV/Aids. This was the first time that someone from the therapeutic sciences had been awarded the grant. Furthering partnerships on the continent, Stewart acted as a consultant from 2004 to 2010 to the Kigali Health Institute, now the University of Rwanda, to assist with the development of their undergraduate physiotherapy curriculum, drawing on years of expertise garnered from her involvement at Wits as a lecturer and clinical supervisor. She has served as the editor-in-chief of the South African Journal of Physiotherapy and was nominated to serve the World Confederation of Physical Therapy by chairing its International Scientific Committee for the 2015 World Congress. She continues to advance the profession as a member of the World Confederation’s Accreditation Committee, which accredits physiotherapy programmes worldwide, particularly newly developed ones and those in under-resourced countries. In this capacity, she has undertaken accreditation reviews at universities in Beirut, Lebanon and in Pori, Finland.

Her contribution has earned her several awards including the South African Department of Science and Technology’s Distinguished Women in Science award in the Humanities and Social Sciences category. Stewart earned her first degree from Wits in 1968, a PhD in 2002 and retired in 2012, but she continues to impact on the world.

About Wits’ Graduation Ceremonies

Wits University has three clusters of graduation ceremonies per year. These are hosted in April, during the June/July winter break and December. These involve a host of service departments and faculties working together with the Exams and Graduations Office to ensure a memorable experience for graduands and guests. Wits University celebrates 100 years this year. A total of 42 graduation ceremonies would have been held in 2022 and 10 138 graduands capped when the curtain falls at the last ceremony on 15 December 2022.