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News > Announcements > Tribute to our retiring Patron

Tribute to our retiring Patron

Raymond Ackerman retires as Patron of the ODU just before his 92nd Birthday
23 Mar 2023
Raymond Ackerman at the AGM in March
Raymond Ackerman at the AGM in March

Mr Raymond Ackerman, the Patron of the ODU, announced his retirement from that position at the ODU 2023 AGM held at The Mitre on Wednesday, 8 March, just before his 92nd birthday. His close association with, and love for his School goes back a long way.
Raymond entered Bishops in January 1944 whilst the Second World War was being waged, matriculating as a prefect in 1948, in School House.  His two sons, Gareth (1975S) and Jonathan (1984S) also were in School House, as were  Gareth's sons Nicholas (2004S) and Benjamin (2008S).

Raymond played a prominent role in his House where he was a House Prefect and the photographs on the walls of the dining hall in School House reflect his good looks which have never left him. Having the personal honour of accompanying Mr Ackerman through the halls and corridors of School House several years ago, one could not help seeing the deep pride shining from his face, whilst he looked at one of the photographs, pointed to himself in it and affectionately said how one of his grandchildren so resembles him when he was a boy.

Raymond participated in the life of his school in the broadest way possible. He was a School Prefect in his Matric Year, and throughout his school career, played team sport at the highest level. Rugby was one of the sports he excelled in, as a back, and as a very successful kicker of the ball. The reports in the school magazines reflect this successful sport career, where one reads how his actions were sometimes defining for the team’s victory. However, an incident in his Matric year took place that could have had a totally different outcome on his life.

Having been a member of the First Rugby XV in every sense of the word, when the touring side to the then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), scheduled for 1948 was announced, he stood there in utter dismay at not hearing his name called out as part of the team. He was told that as he was Jewish, he was not allowed to accompany the tour. This came as a terrible shock and Raymond was devastated. In the many accounts written about Raymond’s life and in his autobiography, this single incident is reported as being one of the most defining moments in his life, and one which among other factors, contributed to his strong stance against injustice in South Africa. Today, 75 years later, Raymond will recount that event. Standing there, listening, one can only be humbled at the way he took a situation and created a victory from it. To me, having the honour of knowing Raymond, this is the ultimate lesson!
Reading further in the Diocesan College magazines of the time, one sees the many accounts of his participation in the daily life of the school. This includes being a member of the prestigious Ten Club as well as the Democritus Society and several other societies. One might well ask, what about his academics? When one sees that he achieved a First Class pass in Matric, it is clear that from the outset, Raymond was seriously involved in what he did, and understood already then what it takes to be an achiever, added to which is one of his most renowned maxims; ‘your mission in life must become a passion you believe in’.

From Bishops, Raymond went on to study at the University of Cape Town for the B. Com degree which he completed in 1951. He then joined his father Gus’ retail company, the Ackerman’s department store chain at age twenty, as a trainee manager. After the group was bought by Greatermans in 1955, he was responsible for establishing the first true self-service chain of supermarkets in South Africa, Checkers.

Having built up the Checkers business to 85 stores, he was dismissed by Greatermans in 1966. Using his two weeks’ severance pay, a bank loan, a modest inheritance and shares purchased by friends, Ackerman bought four small stores in Cape Town trading under the name Pick ‘n Pay. Since then, the business has grown into one of the largest supermarket- and hypermarket- chains, with over 1700 supermarkets throughout South and Southern Africa.
At the occasion of Raymond’s 90th Birthday, we published an article outlining Raymond’s career in business in South Africa. (See the links below for that and all the other articles about Raymond Ackerman on our website). It traced Raymond’s involvement in commercial ventures from the time he started work in 1952, building a financial conglomerate employing over 85 000 persons in seven countries.

Mr Ackerman’s massive contribution to the South African economy has been widely publicised and it is evident that he is a pioneer and philanthropist.  His business philosophy of "doing good is good business" has stood him in good stead. 

The Chancellor of Rutgers University (USA) Phoebe Camden, recognised this when he bestowed an Honorary Doctorate Degree on Raymond Ackerman, highlighting his defiance of the South African government to protect the most impoverished and vulnerable of his fellow citizens, by subsidising bread prices to make certain that basic food items would remain accessible to the majority of South Africans.

In 2011, CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards acknowledged Raymond for his stance on apartheid, monopolies, cartels and regulated consumer prices. In this way, Raymond’s life and work has been a 'voice' on social issues, which could have a material effect on the future safety and prosperity of the country.

Space does not permit us to mention all Raymond's accolades at home and abroad. It is however deemed relevant to this discussion to note one of the country’s highest awards bestowed on Mr Ackerman: the ‘Order of the Baobab’ in the Nations’ National Orders for 2014, which recognizes South Africans who have contributed to community service and business.
In 2019, Bishops honoured Raymond with the Robert Gray medal award, the most prestigious and only award the school can bestow on an OD who has made a significant and exceptional contribution in his / her field of endeavour, or to society in general. In this way,

Raymond has come full circle in his school. In addition is his unselfish service to the Old Diocesan Union as its Vice-President, then President, and ultimately he became the Union’s Patron in 2018, the position from which he now retires. We sincerely thank Raymond for all he has done for the school and Union, and all of us wish him and Wendy well in his retirement from the role of Patron. We hope that there will be many more visits to his ‘home from home’, Bishops, and The Mitre!
With thanks to Dr Paul Murray, OD Ambassador for writing this article


To read our previous articles on Raymond Ackerman please click on the links below:


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