Rhodes University pays tribute to its honorary doctorate recipient and retail giant, Dr Raymond Ackerman

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Rhodes University honorary doctorate recipient and Pick 'n Pay founder, Dr Raymond Ackerman.
Rhodes University honorary doctorate recipient and Pick 'n Pay founder, Dr Raymond Ackerman.

It is with great sadness that Rhodes University has learnt of the passing of the founder of Pick ‘n Pay and one of the University's esteemed honorary doctorate recipients, Dr Raymond Ackerman. Dr Ackerman was conferred with a Doctor of Laws (LLD) (honoris causa) by Rhodes University in 1986, in recognition of his role as a foremost entrepreneur, a committed humanitarian and the immense contribution he made to business and society. In a ceremony comprising a multitude of individual celebrations of students' achievements, there was a collective celebration of the unique achievement of Dr Ackerman. The conferral served as a significant inspiration to many, many students.

His passing leaves a void that will indeed be difficult to fill. Dr Ackerman's association with the University extends over a lengthy period and across several touchpoints.

In 1988, the Raymond Ackerman Chair in Business Administration in the Department of Management at Rhodes University was established. The first person to occupy the Chair was Professor Gavin Staude, who held the position concurrently with that of Head of the Department of Management until he was appointed the first Director of the Rhodes Business School. Prof. Staude has fond memories of Dr Ackerman, who always met with him when he travelled to Cape Town. They would have long philosophical discussions about the future of business in South Africa. Prof Staude referred to Dr Ackerman as a friend of Rhodes University and the Department of Management, a philanthropist and an incredibly generous person. "Being the Raymond Ackerman Chairperson in the Department of Management and being associated with Dr Ackerman and Pick' n Pay was a privilege," commented Prof Staude.

The current Chair, Prof. Lynette Louw, assumed the Raymond Ackerman Chair on 1 August 2006. As the second occupant of this esteemed position, she warmly recollects the letter of congratulation from Dr Ackerman on her appointment and her encounter with him, during which she was struck by his humility and unwavering commitment to fostering a more equitable society in South Africa. "I consider it a distinct privilege to occupy this Chair and to be associated with Dr Ackerman," she reflects. While Dr Ackerman established Pick ‘n Pay in Cape Town in 1967, Prof. Louw views him as much more than a mere entrepreneur. Throughout his lifetime, he profoundly influenced the retail sector and the South African economy, alongside his dedicated and generous philanthropic efforts.

The Raymond Ackerman Academy for Entrepreneurial Development is a notable example of this philanthropy. The University of Cape Town initially ran this collaborative initiative and was later joined by the University of Johannesburg. The Academy has played a pivotal role in nurturing numerous emerging business proprietors, many of whom have provided employment opportunities to others.

Featured prominently in the Rhodes University's Department of Management corridors, for all to read, is a Certificate of Appreciation celebrating the establishment of the Ackerman Fund in 1988. The Fund was established to advance the academic project, including teaching and learning, research, networking (inter-institutionally and between the Department and leading members of commerce and industry), and international collaboration. With the generous funding provided by Dr Ackerman at the Fund's inception, the work of many staff members has benefitted, and numerous initiatives have been launched because of the Fund's financial support.

The Head of the Department of Management at Rhodes University, Mr. Trevor Amos, commented that as a role model in leading and maintaining high standards of business ethics and in encouraging the business community to promote reform, Dr. Ackerman is identified in Management texts as a prime example of a South African Business leader who has made a meaningful difference. Such a difference has been through establishing time-honoured organisations, providing vision & direction in the business world, and transforming organisations into socially responsive entities and contributing positively to society. Incidentally, it is most appropriate that the quotation featured on the Certificate of Appreciation hung in the Department of Management is as follows:

"We use wealth for the purpose in hand, not for ostentatious show, and we regard the failure to combat poverty more disgraceful than poverty itself" Pericles, 431 B.C.

"In an age where we seek and need ethical business leadership role models, Dr Ackerman remains such a role model. The Department of Management continues to be indebted and appreciative of all of Dr Ackerman's contributions over many years. He will be sorely missed," said Mr Amos.

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela, said Dr Ackerman's leadership and entrepreneurial spirit will be remembered not only in retail but also for his innovative approach to deregulating the price of petrol— cementing his legacy as a role model of what it means to be a business leader. In addition to his leadership, he is also remembered as an author. His publication entitled "The Four Legs of the Table" exemplifies his ability to influence thinking, principles and business practices while focusing on people and social responsibility.

"Dr Ackerman was an embodiment of humility and gentleness. He was integrity and kindness personified. He epitomised noble commitment and dedication to social justice, freedom, human rights and human dignity. He was a quintessential gentleman. Our nation and humankind owe him an unpayable debt of gratitude," said Professor Mabizela.

Rhodes University extends its sincere condolences to Dr Ackerman's wife, Wendy, his children, family, and friends.