The Bill Venter name, as well as that of the Altron Group, have been closely associated with the promotion and the upliftment of education in South Africa during the past 45 years, both at the primary and secondary school levels, as well as at the tertiary educational level.
Right from the establishment of our founder company, Allied Electric, in Boksburg on 1 April 1965, Dr Venter saw the value of education as a significant contributor to the future of a truly democratic South Africa. As a result, the company sponsored the rebuilding and refurbishment of many primary and secondary schools in rural areas such as the Vaal Triangle, Pretoria District, Gauteng, Namibia (then South West Africa) and KwaZulu Natal.
In the 1990s, and at the late President Nelson Mandela’s personal request, The Bill Venter Foundation, together with the Altron Group, funded and rebuilt two schools at Madiba’s birthplace of Qunu and Nkalane in the Eastern Cape, followed soon afterwards by a school for the nearby Bomvana nation in Elliotdale.
In later years, Dr Venter became closely associated with many colleges, technikons and universities throughout South Africa, sitting on their advisory councils and contributing significantly to their educational endeavours, including the universities of: Johannesburg (formerly RAU), The Free State, Natal, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Witwatersrand, UNISA and the technikons of Pretoria and Witwatersrand.
In addition, Dr Venter contributed to many other major higher educational bodies such as the Institute of Marketing Management and the Institute of Production Management. He lectured at many of these institutions and was often called upon to lecture as Honorary Professor of Business Administration in the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences at the University of Potchefstroom. He also served on the Councils of Wits Technikon, UNISA, University of Pretoria and University of Natal.
Dr Venter was awarded the Rector’s Gold Medal from the Technikon of Pretoria for his significant contribution to the advancement of technology innovation and studies in South Africa and was awarded a gold medal from the UNISA School of Business Leadership for his contribution to “Leadership in Practice” in Africa.
His leadership example and entrepreneurial contribution to education were of such significance that Dr Venter was appointed to the Council of the University of South Africa and presented with the prestigious Sunday Times Life Time Achievement Award in 2006. Three years later, Dr Venter was presented with the Department of Science and Technology’s first Life Time Achiever Award by the Minister of Science and Technology. He received this award for his contribution to technology and engineering in southern Africa, more particularly in the fields of advancing entrepreneurship and education in this specific field of endeavour, over a period of several decades.
Dr Venter has sat on, and became Chairman of the State President’s Economic Advisory Council and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund where he played a major role in the advancement of education throughout South Africa.
Worthy of mention is Dr Venter’s introduction of The Bill Venter Literary Award in SA some 25 years ago. For a quarter of a century, this prestigious award recognised outstanding contributions to research, published in book form, by University personnel in South Africa and promoted such specialised works both locally and internationally. The substantial monetary prize was awarded annually on an alternating basis for contributions to the Humanities and the Natural Sciences. Books in any of South Africa’s official languages qualified for submission to a Board of Control under the auspices of Higher Education South Africa (HESA).
Naming the former Altech Academy after Bill Venter is, therefore, a truly significant honour and fitting tribute to Dr Venter’s long legacy of carrying out former President Mandela’s well known plea, ranging from the poorest of countries to the richest of nations: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.