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Change the world


Carrying the name of one of the world’s greatest leaders brings with it enormous responsibility. This is something Nelson Mandela University takes very seriously, as it strives to be a university that is of service to society.   

At its annual Alumni Awards on November 26, the university was proud to honour seven outstanding alumni – among them Nelson Mandela’s great grandson, who is working to strengthen the media in East and Southern Africa, a woman making significant environmental strides globally in the traditionally male-dominated mining sector, a lawyer at one of the world’s biggest firms who fights for children’s rights in his free time, and an inspiring achiever who has proved you are never too old to learn.

“In their own unique ways, our award recipients are using their expertise and knowledge to address complexities and challenges in society, making a difference in the lives of those around them. There are more examples and opportunities alumni to play a role in making a difference wherever the find themselves,” said Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sibongile Muthwa.

Alumni Achiever Awards were awarded to New York-based school principal St Claire Adriaan and Canada-based Dr Theresia Ott, who is the Chief Advisor for Environment for one of the world’s largest mining companies, Rio Tinto, which has operations across five continents.

Adriaan, who grew up in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas during apartheid, went on to become the first black Student Representative Council (SRC) president at the former University of Port Elizabeth. He holds an impressive eight degrees, and has made a career providing the best instruction possible to marginalised students in schools across the United States, striving to ensure each student feels cared for, trusted, and more than anything else, like they matter.

Dr Ott is a sustainability leader recognised globally for her expertise in helping the mining sector reduce its impact on the environment, while also uplifting communities. She serves on the International Council of Mining and Metals Environment Policy Committee and was invited to participate at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in June 2020.

A Special Award went to Nomhle Zako, who started her long career at Nelson Mandela University nearly 40 years ago as a cleaner in the campus residences. Over the years, she managed to complete her unfinished high school studies, and obtain a university degree, opening up new opportunities that eventually led to her becoming a Resident Manager – and, indeed, an inspiration to all the students in her care. 

Four Rising Star Awards, honouring alumni aged 45 and under, were awarded to Dumisani Chauke, Siyabulela Mandela, Dr Sweta Patnaik and Conrad van Loggerenberg.

Chauke, who was raised in rural Limpopo and has gone on to play and coach netball at national levels, is using the sport to uplift girls in disadvantaged communities through her non-profit organisation, the Dumisani Chauke Netball Foundation.

Mandela, building on the legacy of his great-grandfather, has been continuing the fight for social injustice and equality, through his studies and work in conflict transformation and management. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was approached by the international organisation Journalists for Human Rights to strengthen the media’s role in the fight against COVID-19 in South Sudan, and has since been appointed Regional Project Coordinator for East and Southern Africa.

Dr Patnaik, who is a lecturer in Clothing and Textile Technology at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, has not only been making significant and rapid strides to advance teaching and learning in higher education globally, but has also highlighted the importance of the textile industry, with its enormous impact on fashion and other industries, for national and global economies. 

Though he now lives in New York, Van Loggerenberg has strong ties to Nelson Mandela Bay and to the university. His father, Christo, also a past Alumni Award recipient, was Dean of Law and Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic at the former University of Port Elizabeth. Apart from being a partner in the Corporate Department at one of the world’s biggest law firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, he also runs a pro bono practice representing not-for-profit interests and individuals, especially children. He is also involved in Port Elizabeth’s NGO Ubuntu Pathways, which is helping to improve the health and education of thousands of children.

Director of Alumni Relations, Paul Geswindt, said: “Celebrating excellence and success stories are important. Even though the 2020 Alumni Awards ceremony was held online, it offered the benefit of more people across the globe joining in the celebration.”

St Claire Adriaan

Dr Theresia Ott

Dumisani Chauke

Conrad van Loggerenberg

Dr Sweta Patnaik

Monhle Zako

Siyabulela Mandela

Contact information
Mr Paul Geswindt
Director: Alumni Relations
Tel: 27 41 504 3935