Rhodes University: Historical moment takes place as Rhodes University alumnus caps honorary doctorate recipient

It is one thing to read about great historical moments in history books, but to be within history, as a critical participant, is something else altogether. In a graduation event full of ‘firsts’ for Rhodes University, the 09h30 ceremony today showed Rhodes University alumnus Professor Steve Olivier capping honorary doctorate recipient Lord Peter Hain. Professor Olivier, the Vice-Chancellor at Robert Gordon University in Scotland, met with the politician, author, and highly influential anti-apartheid activist, Lord Peter Hain in London last week to officiate and record the occasion.

Prof Olivier was explicitly selected by Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela, who told him: “We would be honoured if you could represent our University in this manner and for us to capture this moment on record”.

“I feel incredibly honoured to have been considered,” responded ProfOlivier. His all-round education at Rhodes University, he explained, not only changed him but made him who he is.

Regarding his experience of capping Lord Hain last week, Prof Olivier stated that it affected him quite profoundly. “I was proud, but the overriding feelings were humility and gratitude. Peter’s principles and his willingness to act on them are an inspiration. Not many people can reflect as proudly as he can on an individual role in ending apartheid. The values he espoused spurred me and others, at Rhodes University and elsewhere, to smaller acts that hopefully had a positive cumulative effect.”

Prof Olivier believes Lord Hain to be an incredibly worthy recipient of a Rhodes University honorary doctorate. “The University has done well to recognise his achievements and the ideals he has stood for. His values are congruent with the principles of justice, equality, opportunity and collegiality that Rhodes University has espoused,” he said.

Within this morning’s historical moment, Prof Olivier did not only hold a cap, but he carried the University on his shoulders – and in the awarding of Lord Hain, Prof Olivier represented the whole Rhodes University community.

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