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My Town Holland: Hope College to honor speaker for promoting a just society in South Africa | Community Spirit

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My Town Holland: Hope College to honor speaker for promoting a just society in South Africa
My Town Holland: Hope College to honor speaker for promoting a just society in South Africa

HOLLAND, Mich. – Hope College is presenting an honorary degree to Professor H. Russel Botman, rector and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University in South Africa, in recognition of his leadership in higher education and the Reformed church to promote a more just society for all South Africans.

“Russel Botman is admired internationally as a leader in higher education, the Reformed church and South African society,” said Hope College President John C. Knapp. “He was instrumental in bringing about the peaceful end of South African apartheid and has since mobilized one of Africa’s leading universities to help solve the many problems facing his country and region.”

Botman will receive the degree, the Doctor of Letters, on Tuesday, March 4, at 4 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. During the event, scheduled through the college’s Presidential Colloquium lecture series, Botman will also be the featured speaker, presenting the keynote address “Mandela’s Children: Shaping a University.”  He 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. focused on higher education’s role in fostering social change in South Africa.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Botman was appointed head of Stellenbosch University, 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, 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.

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., on College Avenue at 12th Street.