Rhodes University: Fifth honorary degree for Rhodes University’s Distinguished Professor

Rhodes University’s Distinguished Professor Tebello Nyokong recently received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from her alma mater, McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she completed her MSc in Chemistry in 1981. This award marks her second international honorary doctorate and her fifth honorary degree overall.

President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University, Dr David Farrar, said: “I am delighted that our University has chosen to confer our most significant honour upon Professor Nyokong.”

Professor Nyokong has previously received honorary degrees from the University of South Africa (UNISA), Walter Sisulu University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and another alma mater, Western University in Ontario, Canada.

“I feel privileged and honoured to be recognised in this way,” she said. “But truly, the award should go to my team, especially the students. I would also not be here without Gail [Personal Assistant] and the technical and cleaning staff. They do a lot to make us comfortable.”

Professor Nyokong is internationally recognised for advancing photo-dynamic therapy as an alternative to chemotherapy for cancer treatment. She holds a DST/NRF Research Chair: Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology and is the Director of the DST/Mintek Nanotechnology Innovation Centre at Rhodes University. In recognition of her distinguished and ground-breaking contribution to the chemical sciences and as an influential leader, she was recently admitted as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Although Professor Nyokong is often lauded for being a high-achieving ‘woman in Africa’, she prefers the recognition not be tied to her gender or origin. “Yes, all awards are important. But the ones that are not based on gender show that I have beat most men at their own game,” she explained.

“It bears more weight when it is about the science, not about where you come from,” she added. This is the message Professor Nyokong most believes in instilling in her students, who she adores. “My students are what drive me to keep going,” she said. “And this recognition proves that our science is as good as the science that originates in developed nations – if not better.”

Professor Nyokong’s honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) degree was awarded during McMaster University’s 2021 Fall Convocation.