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NewBridge CEO, Craig Duff receives Award

NewBridge chief executive and founder of Varsity College, South Africa’s first private sector university and a household name across the country, received the Old Boy Pro Meritis Award from the headmaster of Westville Boys’ High, Mr Trevor Hall, for his contribution to education today. (December 4.)

Speaking shortly after the ceremony which is attended by Grade 8 to 11 pupils who achieved excellence in one or more of the following aspects – academics, service, sport or cultural – Duff said this was a truly proud and humbling moment.

Duff attended Westville Boys’ High between 1983 and 1987 and went on to study through Unisa and founded Varsity College at the age of just 21.

Now part of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed Advtech Group, Varsity College has eight campuses countrywide that cater for nearly 17 000 students. Duff served as an executive director for 12, leaving in 2010.

This year, he realised his dream of creating NewBridge, a new age tertiary institution that will bridge the two important gaps between school and post-school studies and post-school studies and the world of work.  The first campus will open on the Durban Berea in 2019.

“Westville Boys’ High played such an important part in my life. It was instrumental in my development. I was a loyal and proud school boy. I am a loyal and proud old boy. I have immense respect for all that the school stands for and for all that the school has achieved,” he said.

Headmaster, Mr Trevor Hall, said that Duff was a fitting guest of honour at the awards ceremony as well as an appropriate recipient of the Pro Meritis Award.

Other recipients include Prof Frank Slack, Mr Stephen van Coller, Dr Adrian Tiplady, Dr Mike Ezekowitz, Mr Jim Sutcliffe, Mr Mickey Arthur and Mr Errol Stewart.

Hall said the award was presented to learners who had matriculated at the school and gone on to achieve a “degree of excellence” in their subsequent careers.

“This does not necessarily apply to any one skill or a particular talent but is presented to a person who has made a significant contribution to the national or global community and has achieved the highest degree of excellence to which we aspire in the School and who has by example of character, attitude, service, involvement, application, unselfishness, modesty and dedication over a period of time, reflected the personal attributes which we value in our School. This is the highest honour that the School can bestow on an Old Boy.  It is an award which is not bestowed very often,” he explained.

Duff added: “” From my perspective, Westville Boys’ High and its teachers taught me to be true to our motto “incepto ne desistam” – may I not shrink from my purpose. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly faced with challenges and changing circumstances. Westville Boys certainly taught me to stand strong and know that hard work would be rewarded. “

He admitted that education had changed a great deal since his days in the classroom. Technology, in particular, had had a significant impact on the way that we communicate, socialize and learn.

“Change requires innovation and modern thinkers that can adapt. It is testament to Westville Boys High, it’s management, its staff and boys that they are regarded as one of the top preforming academic, sporting and cultural school,” he pointed out.

As an innovator in his own right and creator of NewBridge which seeks to take tertiary education to a new level, Duff had some inspiring words of advice for learners attending the event.

“Follow your passion, give it your all, and make sure you take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Right now, all young people’s lives are a book waiting to be written. What you do in the years ahead will determine how exciting your book will be, how much fun and how much success you will be able to write about. Most importantly, make sure that you will be proud to let your parents, your wife and your kids read your book one day.”

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