Chairman of UK Trust receives Honorary Degree from Rhodes University

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Geoffrey de Jager’s Graduation Speech

Geoffrey de Jager Citation

Rhodes University Alumnus and philanthropist, Mr Geoffrey de Jager, urged the Faculty of Commerce graduands in his graduation speech today (Saturday, 14 April) not set out just to make money, as this leads to short-lived pleasures.

As a committed philanthropist and someone who has substantially supported education, heritage, social justice and the environment. His advice to the graduands is to aim to succeed to the very best of their abilities in whatever it is that they set out to achieve and the best way to do this is to do something which they enjoy.

De Jager is a successful businessman, but what sets him apart from other successful businessmen is his determination to share his good fortune with causes in which he has a deep belief or which he have had a profound impact on his success. 

If Universities are about producing graduates with a fine education, who contribute to the creation of knowledge and who have an appreciation of the world in which people live, Rhodes has an excellent example in De Jager of just how well it has succeeded.

Addressing the last graduation ceremony, De Jager told the graduands that they have choices.

“Today is a celebration of your achievements and allows you a brief moment to draw breath before you forge on. You will have to choose which path you will follow.  You have to weigh up the benefits to yourselves, your loved ones and the benefit to others,” he said.

He advised the graduands to be open minded, listen to others and work hard gathering facts before they make a decision.

“As tomorrow’s managers you need to know that you must spend time managing your risk. Avoid those apparent riskless investments because all decisions have risk and as managers, it is the risk you need to manage not the opportunity,” he added.

“If Rhodes has educated you, as it did me, to have independence of thought, then I offer the following advice,” he said. “You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism.”

De Jager graduated with a B Comm degree at Rhodes in 1973. While at Rhodes, he developed his entrepreneurial skills negotiating to buy stocks from a local department store and re-selling the items to his clients who were mainly lecturers and tutors.

After leaving Rhodes he studied for an LLB degree at the University of Natal, after which he practiced law briefly. However, the lure of commerce proved too tempting for De Jager and he soon embarked on a long and distinguished business career.

He became one of the initial directors of Rand Merchant Back before relocating to the UK in 1987. Once in the UK, he took up partnership with his twin brother Douglas and founded Anglo Suisse Investment Holdings Limited.

His portfolio includes two stock broking firms, ES Securities Limited and RND International Limited which he disposed of in the 1990’s. In 2001 the De Jager brothers acquired Sharp International Limited which became the UK’s foremost producer of rigid plastic packaging.

Rhodes University conferred honorary doctorates on De Jager for his contributions to various sectors in society such as education and heritage.

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