Summer has arrived and brings with it many memories - the smell of the wet earth on the Library Lawns after a Joburg afternoon thunderstorm, the taste of a boerewors roll and a ray of sunshine with a sprinkling of blue and gold outside the Great Hall.

We hope that this newsletter will bring us closer as a community, and that it becomes a vibrant space created by Witsies for Witsies, where we can celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of Witsies in the UK and graduates with the edge – no matter where they are scattered across the globe.

There are phenomenal stories coming out of the UK – read more about the ex-Joburgers who chair prominent soccer clubs or the co-founder behind the unique London-based members club that has a vision to reimagine a better world.

Closer to Wits, we are deeply grateful to the anonymous benefactor who contributed approximately £7.8m to honour a cherished Wits lecturer. This exceptional act of giving not only serves as a testament of Professor Margo Steele’s immeasurable influence on countless lives but also showcases the indelible mark that education and mentorship can leave on the human spirit. Join us online on 2 August, 10am UK time, for a webinar with Professor Margo Steele.

Read about the remarkable £8.6m donation by the Zylstra family for a state-of-the-art sports complex which serves as a beacon of inspiration for sportspersons of all ages and abilities.

We also find ourselves confronted with the heart-rending news of the passing of one of our own – Professor Barry Dwolatzky who has so many protégés in the UK who was at the heart of Wits’ prestigious strategic partnerships with University College London and the University of Edinburgh.

Thank you to all our UK alumni for keeping Wits in your hearts and a special word of thanks to those who donate so generously to Wits - thank you for making a difference!

We would love to hear from you – please share your stories of now and then, and let us know what you want to read about.

Witsies all over the world are making a difference and the UK is no exception. Tell us 
about Wits graduates who have embarked on interesting careers.

Witsie leads the remarkable rise of Lincoln City Football Club

Chairperson of the UK’s Lincoln City Football Club, Clive Nates’ love for football began during his childhood in Johannesburg, when he followed the English club Everton. When Everton formed an alliance with Lincoln City, Clive started supporting the underdog team and eventually became a director and chair of the club. After a successful career in finance and retirement, Clive pursued his passion for football by investing in and improving Lincoln City. Despite facing challenges, the club experienced significant growth and success, including reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Clive and his fellow investors are dedicated to taking the club as far as possible, even though reaching the Premier League seems unlikely. Read more.

First a Witsie then a Red Devil

The Fort Lauderdale, Miami lifestyle has some obvious appeal and is nowadays the home to football great Gary Bailey. But Gary remembers where it all started: on the pitch at Wits when he was just 17 with little more than undiscovered talent and big love for the game. Gary made good on his 10-match trial at Wits and went from “being a nobody” to being named Wits Sportsman of the Year in 1977. It laid the foundation for him to have an outstanding 10-year career as keeper for Manchester United and later at Kaizer Chiefs. Read more.

London’s ‘Wokest Club’ led by Witsie and Social Justice Champion Paul van Zyl

The co-founder behind the unique London-based members’ club that has an intention and vision to reimagine a better world is ex-Joburger and Witsie Paul van Zyl.

The Conduit Club in Covent Garden may be called the “wokest club” in town but it’s unapologetic about its values and ethics of committed action, community, creative solution mapping and responsibility in a world facing deep crises and divisions. Paul is chief creative officer at the club and is responsible for its impactful, diverse offerings. He is also a qualified lawyer with roots in social justice and transitional justice. His days of being a student activist at Wits in the late 1980s and at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation ignited his fire and fight to stand up for justice.

His years abroad in the USA and the UK now total over 20, and they have allowed him to understand that social justice and equality also means bringing power, influence and money into the mix. They can all end up in the same direction – funnelled through the same “conduit” for good. Read the full story.

In a Galaxy far, far away…

Congratulations to Wits alumnus, Professor Richard Ambrosi (PhD 2001) who was recently appointed to the Universities Space Research Association Board in the UK. He is currently the Executive Director of Space Park Leicester, a new £100M flagship space science, innovation, technology centre, and collaboration environment. Over the past 12 years, Professor Ambrosi has been pioneering the development and testing of the world’s first space nuclear power systems designed to exploit waste heat from the radioisotope Americium-241, a by-product of the UK’s civil nuclear industry.

The chances of your neighbour or colleague being a Witsie are pretty high. Our research shows that while most of our alumni (130 000) are still in South Africa, over 30 000 are scattered across the globe, with a significant concentration in three countries: the UK, USA, and Australia. In key cities like London (4 696), Sydney (2 217), Melbourne (1 035), Toronto (1 224), New York (3 106), and more, Witsies are shaping new worlds and making a difference. But here’s the kicker: a staggering 8 797 Witsies call the UK their home. About 4 696 graduates reside in London, while the rest are scattered throughout the United Kingdom. With the Rand performing more unpredictably than your favourite team in a tough season, it’s hard to make sense of it all. But one thing is clear—the Witsie community in the UK is growing rapidly.

Celebrating an Icon: Wits Alumnus Honours Professor Margo Steele with a £7.8m Donation

Professor Margo Steele, renowned for shaping some of the world’s most influential CEOs and captains of industries, has left an indelible mark on the business world. Her lecture theatre echoed with the footsteps of esteemed figures like Stephen Koseff (Investec), Ivan Glasenberg (Glencore), Stanley Bergman (Henry Schein), Steve Collis (AmerisourceBergen), and Jacob Modise (Batsomi Investments). Recognising her extraordinary legacy, Wits welcomed a donation of £7.8m, prompting the renaming of the esteemed Wits School of Accountancy to the Wits Margo Steele School of Accountancy. This momentous announcement was made during a special 90th birthday celebration held in Professor Steele’s honour on Wednesday, May 3. Join us on 2 August 2023 at 10h00 UK time for an exclusive online session with Professor Margo Steele as she unveils the secrets behind creating successful CEOs.

Breaking Boundaries! Wits Unveils Revolutionary £10m Sports Complex

The atmosphere at Wits University was electrified with anticipation as the institution unveiled its £10m Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex at a groundbreaking ceremony in May. The cutting-edge facility is set to revolutionize sports training, research, and clinical practice. With a world-class research centre at its core, the complex will encompass therapeutic facilities, an aquatics centre, and a dedicated residence for elite athletes.
Immerse yourself in the future of sports by watching this captivating multimedia artist’s impression of the remarkable sports complex.

Around the world in 180 days

As part of the Wits Centenary celebrations, we had a whistle stop tour across the UK, USA and Australia. Highlights of our trip to the UK in June 2022 was tea with alumnus and Patron of the Wits Foundation UK Sir Sydney Kentridge for his 100th birthday (which coincided with Wits’ 100th birthday) to thank him for his many contributions to Wits. Three Centenary alumni celebratory reunions were held respectively in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. We are grateful to Ruth Leas (CEO Investec Bank plc) for hosting Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal at a celebration in London when he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (read more about Ruth Leas in the next edition of this newsletter) where other Witsie Royal Society Fellows Prof John Burland and Prof Graham Hutchings clinked glasses with Witsies who included Duncan Wanblad, Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum, Janet and Matthew Kentridge, and Steven Braudo. Click here to read more about our international travels.

Unveiling a Sporting Legacy: Wits Sport 100, 1922-2022

Marking a momentous occasion, the Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex groundbreaking event included the launch of the highly anticipated book, Wits Sport 100, 1922-2022 authored by Jonty Winch. This captivating publication encapsulates a century of remarkable achievements in Wits Sport. From legendary athletes to trailblazers who have made the UK their home, the book showcases notable Witsies such as Gary Bailey (soccer), Clive Nates (soccer), Michael Crone (orienteering), Graeme Willcox (yachting), Jaci de Lange née Jarvis (hockey), Franco Busetti (skydiving), Gina Timm née Hishin (hockey), Craig Schweitzer (yachting), Helene White (former Wits sports officer), Daniel Gallon (sports journalist and former student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela), Alexander Pope (orienteering), Barry Mocke (cricket), Cathy O’Dowd (mountaineering), John Klintworth (yachting), Andre le Roux (skydiving), Ricky Robinson (yachting) and Peter Fish (canoeing). To receive your own copy of this treasured chronicle, kindly reach out to Wits UK representative [email protected]

From Thinking to Doing – Wits Innovation Centre launches

The highly anticipated Wits Innovation Centre was recently launched. The Centre lies at the heart of the University’s innovation ecosystem that seeks to develop an ‘innovation mindset’ across all disciplines and boundaries so as to drive multidisciplinary innovation that leads to impactful solutions to pressing global challenges. Thanks to the incredible generosity of Dr David Fine (BSc Hon 1964), the distinguished David and Angela Fine Chair in Innovation has been established. Through a separate donation, Dr Fine also enabled an innovation partnership for Wits with the University of Leeds, UK.

Our very own “Grand Geek” leaves us graciously

In a poignant departure, South Africa and Wits bid farewell to a true luminary—an innovator, strategist, humanitarian, and cherished Professor who wholeheartedly devoted over five decades of his life to Wits University. Professor Barry Dwolatzky left an indelible mark as an educator, researcher, and trailblazing innovator. With an unwavering passion, he spearheaded the creation of the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, and more recently, the highly anticipated Wits Innovation Centre. Professor Dwolatzky’ s visionary contributions have forever transformed the landscape of digital innovation in South Africa and beyond. He forged partnerships for Wits with prestigious universities worldwide, including across Africa and in the UK – for example he was pivotal in establishing Wits’ strategic partnerships with University College London and the University of Edinburgh. 

Read his obituary here.

If you would like to make a donation in his memory click here.

Give the Gift of Graduation

Thank you to our UK alumni who gave the Gift of Graduation in response to the Wits Foundation UK’s tax year-end appeal. We will be updating you about the difference that you made. For those of you who missed it, you can join in the joy of the next graduation season by donating now. A Wits graduation is joyous, but hundreds of hardworking students cannot graduate because they struggle to pay fees. These students are often the first in their families to attend university, and typically have no assets to secure a loan. Instead, they diligently pay back their debt to Wits – but it takes them years. You could give them the gift of graduation so that they can celebrate their success with their classmates and are not left behind once again. Join us to assist these diligent students.

Visit at https://wits-uk.org/ for more about the

Wits Foundation UK which acts for the benefit of Wits University.