UK honour for former UKZN leader

2009-04-10 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s first female vice chancellor, Brenda Gourley, can now lay claim to being one of the United Kingdom’s most inspiring women.

A recent Dods and Scottish Widows Women in Public Life Awards ceremony saw Gourley, vice-chancellor of the Open University since leaving the University of Natal in 2001, receive two titles: the international public servant of the year as well as the outstanding achiever of the year.

Speaking on the telephone from her home outside Milton Keynes, Gourley said it was an honour to be recognised by the awards, which, she said, make space for women to be acknowledged for what they do.

But she downplayed her individual achievements. “You never do anything on your own. I have competent people around me I can rely on.”

Now in their third year, the awards promote and recognise the work of women in politics, business, the civil service and community leadership.

Gourley said the number of positive responses of many women to her awards reminded her that women “do not always get the recognition that they deserve”.

She added that it is gratifying that the awards should give recognition to a university vice chancellor — public servants who are seldom viewed as contenders for public honours.

Gourley was nominated for the awards by MP Mark Lancaster, who said that under her leadership, the Open University “demonstrates commitment to global social justice in developing countries, particularly in Africa”.

He said her work has been a “credit to the UK” and has helped the Open University become a leader in education worldwide.

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