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Stellenbosch University honours Arts Cape first female CEO Marlene le Roux with doctorate

Photographer: Armand Hough

Photographer: Armand Hough

Published Dec 13, 2021


First woman to be CEO of the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town, Marlene le Roux, will be receiving an Honorary Doctorate form Stellenbosch University (SU) this week.

SU will confer honorary doctorates on six outstanding individuals who have made valuable contributions in the fields of medicine, literature, the performing arts, business, science, education and community development.

Among others, Le Roux will be awarded the degree Doctor of Education (DEd) honoris causa for her work in empowering and supporting disadvantaged groups to pursue a fulfilling career in the arts.

Le Roux said she never thought she would have this opportunity in her life since she grew up from a very advantaged family.

“What a special honour it is that Stellenbosch University deemed me worthy of this award. I accept this on behalf of so many disadvantaged women, persons with disabilities and also people who have no voice in life. I started my life in what can be seen as a cycle where you are born into poverty and would ultimately die in poverty. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would stand here,” she said.

Le Roux started her career as a music teacher on the Cape Flats, joined the Artscape Theatre in 2001 as the director of audience development and education. She went on to change the face of Artscape’s audiences, artists, and programming, and has been steadfast in empowering and supporting disadvantaged groups in finding fulfilling careers in the arts.

She introduced outreach projects that range from theatre appreciation workshops to taking complete productions, along with workshops and educational theatre, to rural areas and communities where arts and cultural opportunities are limited.

Le Roux thanked the SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, and Vice-Rector for Social Impact, Professor Nico Koopman, for their support and excelling in their positions.

“A special word of appreciation is for, in particular, Professor Wim de Villiers. He has an immense responsibility as leader of the university and in the community but moreover as a role model for the future leaders of South Africa. Thank you to Professor Koopman who in his capacity as the Vice-Rector for Social Impact, Transformation & Personnel Transformation creates real action through guidance and support for the development of an inclusive society with equal rights for all.”

According to De Villiers, 2021 was as challenging as 2020, as it is the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic; however, the university also turned challenges into opportunities and found new, innovative ways of work.

“Our objectives for 2021 were more or less the same as in 2020: to allow students to complete their academic year successfully, and to remain sustainable as an institution. And yet, because of the agility and determination of our staff and students, we’ve managed to surpass these objectives, and thrive,” De Villiers said.

Other recipients include the Rwandan paediatrician, Professor Agnes Binagwaho; the group CEO of Women Investment Portfolio Holdings and champion of empowering women, Louisa Mojela; the mathematician and scientific leader of international repute, Professor Daya Reddy; the author and recipient of numerous international literary awards, Professor Marlene van Niekerk; and the chairperson of Umalusi and transformation educationist, Professor John David Volmink.