Higher education’s role in fostering social change in South Africa will be the focus of “Mandela’s Children: Shaping a University,” which will be presented through the Presidential Colloquium lecture series at Hope College on Tuesday, March 4, at 4 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel by Professor H. Russel Botman, rector and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
Botman, who throughout his life has been actively engaged in the nation’s transition from the apartheid era, will explore ways that Stellenbosch University has been working to grow a more inclusive institutional culture and consider lessons that other universities might learn from the process. During the event, Hope will present him an honorary degree, the Doctor of Letters, in celebration of his leadership not only in higher education but in service to society and promoting reconciliation and social justice.
Botman was appointed head of Stellenbosch University (SU), which is one of South Africa’s leading higher-education institutions, in 2007 and reappointed for a second term in 2012. He is also director of Higher Education South Africa, a vice-president of the Association of African Universities, and chairperson of the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 Board.
He is a proponent of the idea that science should drive Africa’s development, and has been the prime mover behind SU’s HOPE Project, a science-for-society initiative through which the institution is working to eradicate poverty, promote human dignity and health, entrench democracy and human rights, strengthen peace and security, and balance a sustainable environment with a competitive industry.
Botman holds a Ph.D. in theology from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and in 2013 received the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Theology and Public Life, awarded by Princeton Theological Seminary. As a theologian, he has published widely on human rights, reconciliation, human dignity, the Belhar Confession and social justice.
Born in Bloemfontein, he received his secondary education in Kliptown, Soweto. He honed his leadership skills at UWC, where he served as a member of the Students’ Representative Council in 1976, the year of youth uprisings against apartheid. He became dean of the Faculty of Religion and Theology at UWC in 1999, and was appointed professor in Missiology, Ecumenism and Public Theology at SU in 2000. From 2002 to 2007, he served as SU’s vice-rector for teaching.
An ordained minister of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, Botman was president of the South African Council of Churches from 2003 to 2007. He served as Research Consultant to the World Alliance of Reformed Churches from 2001 to 2004, and participated in its Project on Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth. He is a former executive chairperson of the Ecumenical Foundation of Southern Africa, and was the founding director of the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology.
He serves on the Editorial Board of “Theology Today,” a journal based at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He was a research fellow with the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, N.J., and a Campbell Scholar at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Ga.
Botman has received a Special Award for Standing for Justice and Humanity from the city of Milwaukee, Honorary Membership of Golden Key International, and an Award for Academic Leadership from the Turquoise Harmony Institute. He has also received honorary membership of the United Nations Association of South Africa in recognition of contributions to South African society and the advancement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The Presidential Colloquium is a semi-annual lecture series that brings prominent, internationally known thinkers to Hope. Through lectures and other engagements with the campus, the speakers will share their insights on the academy, leadership and global civic engagement. The desire is that they will challenge Hope to deeper conversation on these topics, which furthers the college’s mission “to educate students for lives of leadership and service in a global society.” The series has been established in conjunction with the inaugural year of President John C. Knapp, who became the college’s 12th president on July 1, and debuted in September with presentations by Dr. Richard Carwardine, who is an internationally recognized expert on Abraham Lincoln and president of Corpus Christi College of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
In addition to delivering his keynote address, Botman will engage with members of the campus community through a variety of other events during his visit, including as the featured speaker during the college’s Chapel service during the morning of Monday, March 3, and presenting a talk titled “Stellenbosch University’s HOPE Project: A Vision for Academic Renewal” Monday afternoon.
Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., on College Avenue at 12th Street.