UCT to honour Allan Gray, Fink Haysom and others

Marlene Dumas, David Sanders and others will also receive honorary doctorates

UCT to honour pioneers in arts, economics, science, law and medicine

This year, the University of Cape Town will award honorary degrees to a selection of experts chosen not only for what each has contributed to his or her respective areas of expertise, but to society as a whole. This year's honorands are:

  • Allan Gray, the founder of Allan Gray Limited, the largest privately owned investment management firm in Southern Africa;
  • Cape Town-born, world-renowned artist Marlene Dumas;
  • UCT alumni Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of Handspring Puppet Company, one of the world's best known and respected puppet companies;
  • Legal expert Nicholas Haysom;
  • Primary health care champion Professor David Sanders; and
  • Physicist Jonathan Ellis

These recipients will be honoured at the June and December graduation ceremonies - the June graduation ceremonies will take place on Thursday the 7th and Friday the 8th while December graduation ceremonies will take place from Wednesday the 12th to Tuesday the 18th.

Allan Gray: Doctor of Economic Science

Born in East London in 1938 and educated at Rhodes and Harvard, where he obtained an MBA, Allan Gray is arguably the most successful self-made South African business executive. A philanthropist who has consistently supported higher education in South Africa, his pioneering approach to investment and his commitment to South Africa's future mark him as exceptional. When he began trading as a one-man company in Cape Town in 1973, his investment decisions were based on the difference between his assessment of the intrinsic value of a company and its share price. Today, his approach is standard practice amongst the investment community.

His visionary approach and belief that the encouragement of and support for entrepreneurship is crucial for the future of a prosperous South Africa led in 1979 to the founding of the Allan and Gill Gray Charitable Trust, and in 2005 to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. The Foundation may ultimately support around 500 selected beneficiaries (currently 378) with full scholarships to attend high school or university. The university beneficiaries participate in a fellowship programme which focuses on the skills, attitude and motivation needed to succeed as a leader, whether as an entrepreneur or otherwise.

The establishment of a centre and a Chair in Values-Based Leadership at UCT's Graduate School of Business is a manifestation of his belief that the future and sustainability of the South African economy is dependent upon sound, ethical and values based management. UCT recognises Gray as a man who has acted on his vision on how to ensure a great future for all South Africans.

Marlene Dumas: Doctor of Fine Arts

Widely regarded as one of the most influential painters working today, Marlene Dumas has continuously explored the complex range of human emotions, often probing questions of gender, race, sexuality and economic inequality. Born in Cape Town in 1953, she completed her fine arts studies at the University of Cape Town's Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1975, before attending the Ateliers '63 in Haarlem, Netherlands for two years. In 1979-80 she studied at the Psychological Institute at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. 

Dumas' distinctive interest in and use of photographic sources in her painting practice has enjoyed sustained critical reception, as has her courage in handling sensitive topics of racial and sexual violence and mortality. Her work consistently explores constructions of identity and the fluid distinctions between the public and the private. Dumas' achievements were capped most recently by her major retrospective exhibition "Measuring Your Own Grave" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her work is in collections in many countries, including South Africa, the United States, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Japan.

Duma possesses a rare generosity and commitment to art students and emerging artists alike. She has maintained a strong interest in young artists in the country of her birth over the years, and has initiated many important events and supported many young artists materially, by mentoring and in other ways. When she received the prestigious David Röell prize by the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund in 1998, she chose to share her winnings with the South African National Gallery, enabling the gallery to initiate Fresh, a developmental programme focusing on promising young artists throughout the country.

Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones: Doctor of Literature

UCT will honour Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones for their outstanding contribution to contemporary theatre through the medium of puppetry. Both graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at UCT in 1974. In 1981 they established the Handspring Puppet Company (initially with two other Michaelis graduates), which has become one of the best known and respected puppet companies in the world with a wide international reputation.

The special genius of Jones and Kohler's work has been to bring their training at Michaelis and their imagination as artists and sculptors to bear on their interest in theatrical and per formative traditions. Their collaboration with artists such as William Kentridge and, more recently, with the Royal National Theatre's Warhorse project has brought their work to international attention. The accolades they have received reflect the astonishment with which audiences have encountered the powerful assimilation of animated puppet-character, sculpture, puppet-mastery, and performance.

Their work represents an original integration of art and performance that has come about through a formal understanding of three-dimensional art and a deep engagement of the power of sculpture and performance in Africa, rather than anywhere else in the world. Their ability to load the objects they make with extraordinary emotional range and dramatic power make theirs a truly unique and innovative contribution to creative work in South Africa.

Nicholas Haysom: Doctor of Law

Nicholas Haysom has devoted his life to public service and the vindication of human rights, both in South Africa and internationally, particularly in Africa. He graduated with a BA Hons in 1975 from the University of Natal and an LLB from UCT in 1978. He was admitted as an attorney in 1981 and joined the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the University of Witwatersrand - a pioneer institute engaged in academic research and education, but also in bringing precedent-setting cases in human rights. He published important research into the legal rights of farmworkers and the violence employed by the security forces during the states of emergency. He was detained on several occasions and banned.

In the 1990s Haysom was directly involved as both a negotiator and an advisor in the negotiation of South Africa's interim and final constitutions. He was appointed to represent the Constitutional Assembly and brief the legal team in the Certification of the Final Constitution proceedings in the Constitutional Court. Between 1994 and 1999 he served as President Nelson Mandela's legal advisor and, at his request, worked as a peace facilitator in Burundi. He was subsequently called upon to assist in facilitating the peace talks in Sudan. He helped draft and negotiate the ground-breaking Machakos Protocol, which formed the basis of the other protocols on wealth sharing, power sharing and security and ultimately the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.

In 2005 Haysom joined the United Nations to head its Constitutional Support Unit in Iraq, and in 2007 he was appointed Political Director in the Office of the Secretary-General. He has advised missions on conflict in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and advised on constitutional processes in Tunisia. He continues to lecture and write on issues relating to conflict resolution and constitution making, of which he is now regarded internationally as a leading expert.

David Sanders: Doctor of Science in Medicine

Born in 1945, David Sanders trained in Zimbabwe as a medical doctor. He qualified in paediatrics and public health in the UK and returned to Zimbabwe in 1980, working in paediatrics and district health and heading the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Zimbabwe in 1991 later becoming founding head of the School of Public Health at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Sanders is an iconic figure in the field of public health, nationally, regionally and internationally. He has pioneered thinking on the implementation of the World Health Organisation's model of primary health care, with its emphasis on equity and health as a right. His work has contributed to advancing understanding of primary health care as a framework for health and development and to improvements in child health through research, teaching and training, and policy advocacy and service development.

In 1993, Sanders established the first multidisciplinary Masters programme in Public Health in South Africa at UWC, at a time of tremendous transformation in the country's health system. The programme helped to pioneer the field of academic public health in South Africa and prompted the development of similar and complementary programmes across the country.

In fashioning a vision of public health based on equity, access and human rights, Sanders has exemplified engaged scholarship, bringing scientific inquiry to bear on solving the health and development challenges facing communities, particularly those most marginalised by social exclusion. The importance of his work has been recognised by policy makers and implementers, both internationally and locally. He is often called upon to contribute to analysis and policy development by a range of both state and civil society actors, including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, Oxfam, Save the Children, the national and provincial departments of health, and labour organisations.

Jonathan Ellis: Doctor of Science

Born in 1946 in London, England; Jonathan Ellis earned his PhD in theoretical particle physics in 1971 from Cambridge University. After post-doctoral positions at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the California Institute of Technology, he joined the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was deputy leader (1979 to 1982 and 1984 to 1987) and leader (1988 to 1994) of the Theoretical Physics division. He is currently the Clerk Maxwell Professor of Theoretical Physics in King's College, London.

Ellis is one of the pioneers of research at the interface between particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and quantum gravity. Our understanding of the world and its origins has changed forever under his influence. In 1976 he proposed searching for gluons, the carrier particles of the strong interactions, via 3-jet events in electron-positron annihilation. This search was then carried out three years later at the DESY laboratory in Germany, resulting in the discovery of the gluon.

UCT will confer an honorary doctorate in recognition of Ellis's exceptional and ground-breaking contributions to the understanding of fundamental physics and astrophysics, and for the numerous contributions he has made over the past decade to promote physics in South Africa, including the South Africa-CERN programme, and the series of African Schools of Physics.

Statement issued by Mologadi Makwela, UCT Communication and Marketing Department, February 29 2012

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