UCT to honour three at December graduations

08 December 2011 | Story by Newsroom
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Mary Burton and Dr David Potter
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Mary Burton and Dr David Potter

UCT will honour Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu with the Graça Machel Chancellor's Award for Continental Leadership at a graduation ceremony on 12 December. In addition, human rights champion Mary Burton and software genius Dr David Potter will receive honorary degrees at graduation ceremonies on 12 and 13 December, respectively.

Tutu: a champion of human rights

Nobel Laureate Tutu will become only the second person to receive the Chancellor's Award for Continental Leadership. In 2004, President Thabo Mbeki received the Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Leadership in Africa. An internationally renowned advocate of human rights issues he may be, but Tutu has thrown his weight behind some UCT campaigns as well. This year, for example, he lent his support to the student-run The Change Campaign, a week-long drive organised by UCT's Students' Representative Council to foster a sense of social responsibility among peers.

In October, he also joined UCT students and staff and local civil society organisations to create It Gets Better - Cape Town: a collection of 18 videos that form the first South African contribution to a global video campaign aimed at sexual minorities who experience discrimination in secondary schools and beyond. In addition, he is the benefactor behind that the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre. And in 2010, the Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research in the UCT Marine Research Institute was partly named after him to honour his passion for the natural environment and climate responsiveness.

Burton: committed to justice and reconciliation

UCT alumna and human rights activist Mary Burton will be awarded an honorary doctorate degree in social science at a graduation ceremony on 12 December. Burton's enduring commitment to justice and reconciliation, and her courageous leadership of groups known for their advancement of liberty, is evident in her participation over several decades at the highest levels in organisations committed to human rights and civil liberties. These include the Black Sash, which she joined in 1965 and for which she served as president from 1986 to 1990; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in which she served as a commissioner in the Human Rights Committee from 1995 to 1998; and bodies such as the Surplus Peoples Project, the National Council for Women and the Institute of Race Relations.


In 2000 Burton helped launch the Home for All Campaign, which called on white South Africans to contribute to reconciliation in South African in recognition of the benefit and privilege they experienced under apartheid. In 2003, The Order of Luthuli (Silver) was conferred upon her by President Mbeki. In 2004 the Order of Disa, the highest provincial award, was conferred upon her by Western Cape Premier Ibrahim Rasool in 2004, and the Reconciliation Award by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

Potter: designer of computer mobility

Dr David Potter, the founder and former CEO of microcomputer systems company Psion, will be awarded an honorary doctorate degree in engineering on 13 December for his contribution to technology and software innovation. In 1980, Potter founded software company Psion. In 1984, using radical technology, Psion invented the Organiser, the world's first large-scale, hand-held computer for personal use. Potter later led the creation of Symbian Limited, in partnership with Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Matsushita, to create the operating system standard for mobile wireless devices, now known as the Symbian.

In 2004, the David and Elaine Potter Foundation, formed by Potter and his wife, established a fellowship programme at UCT to support projects in education, research and Third World development. The foundation gives opportunity to motivated and academically excellent individuals to use their education for the betterment of South Africa and civil society. To date, more than 40 South African master's and doctoral students have benefited from the programme. Potter also serves on the South African President's Committee on Communication and Information Technology.

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“Archbishop Emeritus Tutu, as he graciously aged, never lost his vision for a just and free South Africa.”
– Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane

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