Inspiration, hope and passion for the institution he serves were the hallmarks of the address by new Vice-Chancellor of Wits University, Professor Adam Habib, when he spoke at his official installation ceremony on Saturday, 24 August 2013.
Habib, joining Wits in its 91st year, announced a brand new equality scholarship programme aimed at attracting the top disadvantaged learners in the country.
"We will introduce the Vice-Chancellor's equality scholarship targeted at the top students in quintile one and two schools, those that are the most marginalised and depressed in the country," said Habib.
"Top students from these schools – merit is still retained – will be given a similar fully funded scholarship, to ensure that talented students from economically marginalised communities are also given access to Wits."
He made a heartfelt plea to the Wits community to work together and reflect a commitment to the country, continent and the globe.
"We have a deep commitment to be a racially integrated and nationally diverse institution. We are also mindful of the importance of, and remain committed to, retaining our cosmopolitan character, both in national and racial terms," said Habib.
He embraced the task of leading Wits, a leading research-intensive university, by reiterating that the university will charter academic freedom, institutional autonomy and social accountability.
"We chart an independent path where we are proud to be both defenders of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, while simultaneously being a strong institutional advocate for social accountability," he said.
Habib admitted that the task as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University will be fraught with challenges.
"Building and managing any university is challenging in the 21st Century, but undertaking this responsibility in South Africa is an even more onerous one. This is because the managerial challenges tend to be all the more acute. Structural poverty and inequality seep across institutional boundaries and force the university's executive to confront challenges such as starving students and residential overcrowding."
The installation was presided over by the Chancellor of the University, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, and the Chairperson of Council, Dr Randall Carolissen.
The keynote address was delivered by the Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, who praised Habib for his swift action on issues of social cohesion. "He has been selected to lead the university in confronting challenging social and economic realities, at the same time ensuring that the work of the university is grounded in making sense of these realities. During his brief time here, he has already dealt decisively with sexual predators, and in a direct and refreshing manner, invited the Wits community to acknowledge some of the problems associated with employment outsourcing," said Hanekom.
"I believe that Professor Habib will lead Wits to confront our common social and economic realities in new and direct ways, contributing to a brighter future for our country and helping us realise the vision in the National Development Plan."
The installation was attended and viewed live by members of the Wits community, government, the corporate sector, the media, the higher education sector, the diplomatic corps and civil society.
Dignitaries in attendance included the Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ayanda Dlodlo, ambassadors, consular generals, high commissioners, the former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits, Dr Loyiso Nongxa, members of the Wits Convocation, Council and Senate, former Chancellor of Wits, Justice Richard Goldstone, vice-chancellors from universities in South Africa and Africa, City of Johannesburg officials and leaders of political parties.
Habib is an academic, an activist, an administrator and a renowned political media commentator and columnist.
A Professor of Political Science, Habib has more than 30 years' of academic, research, institutional and administration expertise. His experience spans five universities and multiple local and international institutions, boards and task teams.
His professional involvement in institutions has always been defined by three distinct engagements: the contest of ideas; their translation into actionable initiatives; and the building of institutions.
Professor Habib served as the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation, Library and Faculty Co-ordination at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He officially took up the position of Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University on 1 June 2013.
For images and a full biography of Professor Habib, visit www.wits.ac.za. Audio and video will also be available on the Web site.
Follow the installation on Twitter: @Wits_News; @WitsUniversity; #WitsVC