By Staff Reporter
On 25 November 2023, the three Distinguished Alumni Awardees for 2023 inspired the Rhodes University community with their words of power, resilience, and motivation at a special celebratory event.
In September this year, it was announced that Mr Anele Siswana and Professors Charles Breen and Roy Lubke were selected as the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awardees chosen by the Association of Old Rhodians Selection Committee.
Mr Siswana, a pioneering mental health advocate, graduated with a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Rhodes University. His professional journey has been characterised by a relentless commitment to transforming mental health care and making it more accessible to all South Africans.
Furthermore, Siswana’s influence extends beyond the confines of his profession. He has risen to prominence as a leading brand influencer, collaborating with numerous initiatives dedicated to promoting mental health, cultural awareness, individual identity, diversity, and inclusivity.
At the award ceremony, he said: “When someone has done something great for you, your response in isiXhosa is Ndiyabulela. Thank you to the Alumni Office for this honour and highest recognition from Rhodes University.”
Mr Siswana explained that he comes from a family of non-educated elders. “I’m the first generation to graduate, the first person to be within my tax bracket, and the first to have made it to Rhodes University,” he said.
Looking forward to 2024, which is Rhodes University’s 120th anniversary (RU120), Siswana spoke about his foundation that focuses on men’s mental health and access to healthcare services. “A big component of this foundation will focus on research around effective interventions,” he said. He also stated that he is fully committed to being a part of the RU120 vision and to support in next year’s celebrations. “I offer myself as one of the University ambassadors – or as they are referred to these days, ‘brand influencers’.”
Professor Charles Breen, the second Distinguished Alumni Awardee, obtained his PhD in Botany in 1970. While at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a Senior Lecturer, Prof Breen worked on a project that was part of a broader national response to the growing awareness of eutrophication, which prompted one of the most comprehensive environmental studies ever undertaken on freshwater systems. Prof Breen is regarded as the authority on social and ecological issues and is well-known for his sharp mind, creativity, unsurpassed innovation, and visionary leadership and thinking.
On accepting his award, he said: “My Professors and fellow students at Rhodes University saw something in me of which I was unaware: they created opportunities for me that I could never have imagined and they prepared me to take advantage of those opportunities. That is what Rhodes University does for us. It prepares us to create and take advantage of opportunities.”
Prof Breen stated that there is no doubt in his mind that his achievements reflect the strong learning foundation provided by Rhodes University.
The third awardee, Professor Roy Lubke, has dedicated nearly fifty years of his professional career to Rhodes University and is regarded as a pioneer of environmental impact assessment in the Eastern Cape and South Africa. He is an active member of local and international professional conservation societies, some of which he has been a member since 1962. It goes without saying that Prof Lubke has shaped the lives of many botanists in the Eastern Cape.
On accepting his award, he said: “Of all my lifetime achievements, I believe that this one means most to me. It is probably because I have a fanatical passion for life at Rhodes University and in [Makhanda].”
Since starting his studies and falling in love with botany and ecology, Prof Lubke has never looked back. “I was overjoyed with working in the field and on the seashore, and this opened up new horizons for me – and so my career was established,” he explained. “We are in the midst of spectacular South African biomes here in [Makhanda], with only the desert being farther afield.”
The 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awardees have not only achieved remarkable success in their respective fields but have also embodied the spirit of excellence and commitment that Rhodes University instils in its students.
Their stories inspire the entire Rhodes University community and serve as a testament to the transformative power of education in shaping the future. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela congratulated the 2023 awardees for their sheer dedication and hard work and for the well-deserved recognition as Distinguished Alumni Awardees by their alma mater in 2023.
This story was first published by Rhodes University Communications Division.