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SA College for Tourism (SACT) ended its Crystal Anniversary Year on a high note on Friday, 20 November, when it celebrated the graduation of 89 young women and 16 young men from rural southern Africa, with national certificates in hospitality services and tracking animals in the wild respectively. Graduation Day was preceded on Thursday evening with a dinner at Drostdy Hotel for graduation guests, who were addressed by His Excellency, Mr Marcus Cornaro, Head of Mission of the European Delegation to South Africa. Drostdy forms part of the college’s training facilities.
Guests were welcomed to the graduation ceremony by Mrs Gaynor Rupert, chairperson of the college company. Congratulating Team SACT on achieving this milestone, Mrs Rupert paid tribute to the donors, supporters and friends of the college and thanked them for making it possible for the college to go from strength to strength, year after year.
Mrs Rupert said she was particularly pleased to welcome in person Ambassador Cornaro and Mrs Cornaro, who were visiting SACT, accompanied by the Deputy Head of the European Union (EU) Mission, Mrs Sofia Moreira de Sousa, and the EU/SACT project manager, Ms Pilar Blanco-Rodriques. Mrs Rupert asked Ambassador Cornaro to relay her sincere appreciation to the EU for their magnificent support of the work of SACT. In approving a grant, earlier this year, of more than R9 million over a three-year period, the EU became the college’s largest donor.
Mrs Rupert extended a warm welcome to Ms Louise Jones of the Old Mutual Foundation and to Mr Marco and Mrs Janna van Niekerk of Safari & Outdoors. Both these companies joined the donor community of SACT this year.
Special words of welcome and of appreciation were also extended to loyal, long-standing supporters of SA College for Tourism, who were present to celebrate graduation with the Class of 2015, such as the Embassy of Finland and its Deputy Head of Mission, Mrs Anu Saxen, Mr Francois and Mrs Marian van der Merwe and family, whose Koos and Rona Rupert Education Trust is one of the largest donors of Tracker Academy, Mr Glenn and Mrs Inna van Heerden of Thornybush Collection and Lloyds Travel of Sandton respectively, Mr Jurie Erwee and colleagues of Marsh Africa, Mrs Wendy Appelbaum of De Morgenzon Wine Estate, Mr Richardt and Mrs Lyell van Rensburg of Graaff-Reinet, renowned interior decorator, Mr Stephen Falcke, for his excellent work on Drostdy Hotel and the foyer of the college, Mr Adrian Arnott, who was instrumental in bringing the original bird plates of Roberts’ Birds of South Africa to Drostdy Hotel on permanent exhibition, Mr Charles Reed of Barclays Africa, Mrs Barbara Pudel, who for the last decade has afforded the top hospitality student of the year and her runner-up an all-expenses paid three-month work shadow visit to her magnificent guesthouse in Portofino, Italy, and her brother, Baron Francesco Lombardo di San Chirico.
Mrs Rupert also thanked a number of people and organisations in absentia for their wonderful and continued support of the college. Among them were the Rupert Family Foundations, Mr Jannie Durand and Remgro Limited, Mr Dillie Malherbe and Jagersfontein Developments, Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, Mr GT Ferreira and RMB, Mr Whitey Basson and Shoprite, Mr Boetie and Mrs Caroline van Zyl, Dr Edwin de la Harpe Hertzog, the Varty family and Londolozi Game Reserve, Mrs Sarah Tompkins and Samara Private Game Reserve, and Antonij Rupert Wines. Special tributes were also paid to Mr Hansjurg and Mrs Francesca Saager, and Mrs Irene Staehelin, Swiss friend of SA College for Tourism.
Ms Minnie Dlamini, one of South Africa’s most up-and-coming TV personalities and who is said to have the largest Twitter and Facebook following among young people in the country, delivered the keynote address. Minnie congratulated the young women and men on having taken the opportunity to come to the college to study and to better their lives. This, she said, bodes well for their success in future.
Following the capping of the graduates, Mrs Barbara Pudel announced the winners of this year’s Gregorio Raymo Award, the work shadowing visit to Portofino: Ms Helen Sibuyi and Ms Zizipho Ndwalaza. Helen also received the Absa Floating Trophy from Mr Charles Reed.
Ms Nokulung Mdletshe received the Thornybush Collection Trophy for best Culinary Art Student of the Year. The trophy, accompanied by prize money and a three-month internship with the executive chef of Thornybush, was handed to Nokulung by Mr Glenn van Heerden. Mrs Jennifer Preller, SACT board member, handed the Samara Private Game Reserve and the Londolozi Game Reserve trophies, accompanied by prize money donated by Richardt and Lyell van Rensburg, to the two top Tracker Academy graduates of the year, Mr Ivan Buregoo and Mr Cliff Ndlovu.
Jennifer was followed to the podium by Mr Sipho Puwani, another board member, who handed the Peacemaker of the Year awards to Ms Annie Dlamini of the hospitality training division and Mr Vusi Mathevula of Tracker Academy. The award is in the form of an originally signed pencil sketch of Dr Nelson Mandela by world renowned British artist, Dr Harold Riley.
Following a vote of thanks by Tracker Academy graduate, Sersant Sibuyi, Mrs Anu Saxen, Deputy Head of Mission of Finland, which has been supporting SA College for Tourism for half a decade, brought the day’s proceedings to an end with her closing remarks, encouraging fellow donors and supporters to continue to support the college and wishing the graduates the very best in their future endeavours.
A special touch to the celebrations was a personal message to all involved with SA College for Tourism and to this year’s graduates from HRH Prince Irene of the Netherlands.
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