Cornerstone Honours Change Makers


As we gear up for our 2022 Mega Graduation ceremony, which will be held on the 10th of December for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 graduation classes, it is important to remember Cornerstone’s Motto of “Learn to change the world”. 

As we encourage our graduates to go into the world and change it, Cornerstone took the opportunity to recognise those who are currently impacting the world in a positive way. 

8 September 2022 was a momentous moment in the history of Cornerstone Institute. On this day, we celebrated the work of four outstanding academics and presented them with our first Laureate Awards – the highest mark of distinction that Cornerstone Institute may award on a yearly basis.

Laureate awards are presented in honour of an outstanding achievement by their recipient and notable positive impact that these individuals have had on society. As Dr Rev Rudi Buys, Cornerstone’s Executive Dean, explained earlier this year: 

Candidates may be from any field and are nominated by members of the Senate and the Board. Nominations are assessed in terms of scholarship achievement and an established record of service to society.”


Meet our laureates:

Dr Tanya Abrahamse (Developmental Ecology)

Dr Abrahamse has held numerous senior management roles, including Chief Director in the Office of President Nelson Mandela and of the Reconstruction and Development Plan, Executive Director of the Environmental Development Agency, and Chief Executive Officer of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, among others.She served on the UN Secretary General’s Science Advisory Board, and currently serves as Chairperson of the Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and as a governing board member of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.

Dr Abrahamse is recognised for her significant contribution to research, policy development and management of natural resources and biodiversity sciences, both locally and internationally, and to the reconstruction and development of post-apartheid South Africa.

Dr Liesl Zühlke (Pediatric Cardiology)

Dr Zühlke has an extensive history of research, spanning topics including congenital and Rheumatic Heart Disease, HIV in adolescents, Grown-up Congenital Heart Disease and Cardiac Disease in women of childbearing age. Her work has been widely published, in over 150 articles and book chapters, which have over 26 000 citations. Dr Zühlke has worked as an editor of multiple international academic journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, and the European Heart Journal. Dr Zühlke has played crucial roles in the development of cardiology science and research, occupying senior positions in research and health management, including her roles as Deputy Dean of Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town, and as a Paediatric Cardiologist at Red Cross Children’s Hospital. Dr Zühlke served as the President of both the Paediatric Cardiac Society of South Africa, and the South African Heart Association, and currently occupies the role of chairperson of both the Paediatric and Rheumatic Heart Disease Taskforces in the Pan-African Society of Cardiology. She also serves as President and Board Member of multiple international cardiology and medical organisations.

Dr Zühlke is recognised for her significant and continuing contribution in research and leadership in the field of cardiovascular medicine in South Africa and internationally. 

Dr Bernard Fanaroff (Astronomy)

Dr Fanaroff is recognised for his significant contribution to astronomy, to the development of science locally and internationally, and to the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa’s post-apartheid reconstruction. 

While at Cambridge University, Dr Fanaroff co-authored the Fanaroff-Riley classification of galaxies based on the shape and radiance of their radio emissions.On his return to South Africa, he joined the freedom struggle and served as the national secretary for the Metal and Allied Workers Union, among other significant roles. He was appointed as Deputy Director General in President Mandela’s Office and Head of the Office for the Reconstruction and Development Programme, and served in numerous other important roles in South Africa’s post-apartheid reconstruction. Dr Fanaroff is one of the founders of the Academy of Science of South Africa, director of the MeerKAT telescope project, and led South Africa’s successful bid to host the international Square Kilometer Array, an intergovernmental radio telescope project. In 2019 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, which includes many significant scientific figures such as Isaac Newton and David Attenborough.

Professor John Volmink (Education)

Professor Volmink has a long history in the field of education, having taught mathematics and serving on several ministerial committees and task teams focused on education. Amongst these roles, he served as the Chair of the Board of UMALUSI, the body which sets and monitors the standards for South Africa’s general and further education and training. 

Professor Volmink has served in various vice-chancellor roles at several higher education institutions, and has played important roles in non-profit educational organisations, such as the Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education and the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit. To this day, he serves as Chair of the DG Murray Trust and of the Ubuntu Global Leadership Network.

Significantly for us, Professor Volmink has held key roles at Cornerstone Institute for almost two decades, serving first as the CEO and Principal, and later as a board member and President.

Professor Volmink is recognised for his significant contribution to public and private education in South Africa, to the NGO sector in service of education and teaching, and to global initiatives to build ethical leadership. 

Professor Volmink presented a public lecture titled “The Development of Curriculum Thought in the Democratic Era in South Africa, with Special Reference to Mathematics”, following the Laureate Dinner and award ceremony.

Cornerstone Institute is invested in social justice, inclusivity and transformation, and the use of knowledge and personal scholarly achievement for the advancement of the public good is an endeavour which embodies our mission as a not-for-profit and values-based organisation. 

In this light, we celebrate not only the outstanding academic achievements of our laureates but also their investment of time, knowledge and experience in pursuit of the interests of society.

We hope that every Cornerstone Institute graduate graduating at our 2022 Mega graduation will be inspired to change the world just like Professor Volmink, Dr Fanaroff, Dr Zühlke and Dr Abrahamse! 

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