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This week I was the guest of the Appleton Chairman, Tim Hughes, at a reception hosted by the UK High Commissioner, Antony Phillipson, in honour of the Oxford University Vice Chancellor, Dame Louise Richardson. Hosted in the historic Bishopscourt property that serves as the Cape Town home of the High Commissioner, the evening was a reminder of the deep historic ties between South Africa and its former colonial power, but also how this special relationship continues in many fields, notably those of academia, science and medicine.
As the founder and Chairman of the cricket charity Lord’s Taverners in South Africa, I have cultivated a friendship with the UK Consul General, Ben Boddy, who will soon be departing our shores, but this was my first meeting with the cricket-loving High Commissioner and his charming wife, Julie. As might be expected at a cocktail held for Oxford University alumni, the guest list was a veritable who’s who of the great and the good, from Vice Presidents of global banks, to owners of wine farms and leading academics, through to the current prosecutor of former President Jacob Zuma.
But the evening really belonged to the Oxford Vice Chancellor, who is coming to the end of her highly successful tenure, before relocating to New York in January to head the Carnegie Corporation. Noting her scepticism of global university rankings, save for that of The London Times which (coincidentally) rates Oxford number one globally, Louise referenced her pride in the “amazingly brilliant scientists who rolled up their sleeves” to develop the ground-breaking Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the rest of the world. What I did not know until then, was how important South Africa was to the Oxford vaccine’s development as one of three test sites globally and what a vital role our own scientists, virologists and clinicians had played in the successful testing of the vaccine.
Meeting with Louise personally provided me with the opportunity to talk to her about the work of the Spirit Foundation and in particular that of the Spirit Education Foundation. This topic, more than any other, seemed to capture her interest and also planted the seed in my own mind of a number of the Foundation’s fantastic matriculants attending Oxbridge in due course. Spirit Education Foundation matriculants have already gone on to become astrophysicists, clinicians and teachers, so it would be a logical next step for our top-performing Spirit Education Foundation scholars to reach the pinnacle of academic achievement by becoming Oxbridge graduates.
We have our work cut out, but Spirit Foundation MD Dr Armand Bam, trustee Tim Hughes and I as Chairman, have set this as our personal objective. If you would like to support us in our mission to send a Spirit Education Foundation scholar from a disadvantaged background to Oxbridge, please contact us through our website www.spiritf.org or call us on +27 21 795 5199.