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News > Announcements > John Dobson receives the Robert Gray Medal Award for 2023.

John Dobson receives the Robert Gray Medal Award for 2023.

One of the recipients for last year's awards, John Dobson, received the Robert Gray Medal this morning in a beautiful service in the Memorial Chapel.
Ben Anderson, Thandi Moyo, Tony Reeler, Fr Monwabisi Peter, John Dobson, & Martin Bey.
Ben Anderson, Thandi Moyo, Tony Reeler, Fr Monwabisi Peter, John Dobson, & Martin Bey.

On 15 March 2024, in a ceremony in the War Memorial Chapel at Bishops, John Dobson (1986K) was awarded the Robert Gray Medal.  The other recipient for 2023 is Blaine Tomlinson (1968G) who will be awarded the medal at a ceremony later this year.

The persons in the photograph above are Ben Anderson (Gr 12, the Head Boy), Thandi Moyo, (Bishops Council member), Tony Reeler, (15th Principal of Bishops), Father Monwabisi Peter, (College Chaplain), John Dobson, one of the two recipients of the Robert Gray Medal for 2023, & Martin Bey (1990B), Chairman of the ODU.

The Robert Gray Medal is the most prestigious and only award which the school can bestow on an OD who has made a significant and exceptional contribution in his field of endeavour, or to society in general.

The first such awards were made in 2018.  

The Citation for the Medal for John Dobson.

John Dobson grew up at Bishops with his sisters Anne and Clare, with their father Paul Dobson on the staff from 1966 to 1994 during which time he served as the House Director of School House serving the full twelve-year term as it was then.  His mother Margaret was the nursing sister at the sanatorium from 1970 to 1982. 

John matriculated from Bishops in 1985 with distinction, and did Post Matric in 1986.  He won the History Prize and the Writer’s Prize.  His academic qualifications include a BA and a LLB, and four Masters: an MBA, an MA in Creative writing, an LLM and an M.Phil from the University of Leeds.

He has penned two books: which are works of fiction: “The Year of the Turnip”, an Exclusive Books best seller in 2012; followed by “The Year of the Gherkin”.

John’s sports career includes playing schoolboy rugby at Bishops, for UCT, Villagers, Northerns Avonwood, Elsies River and for Clubs in Italy and Portugal.

His main body of work for his career has been around rugby in the Western Cape, together with the revival of the  Stormers/Western Province franchise  and the professional game in the region.  His Stormers team of 2022 became the first Stormers team ever to win a major international competition and for the past two years they have won the Shield as the best team in South Africa.   This new life for Western Province Rugby has brought joy to tens of thousands of people. Today the team that he leads as its professional coach is arguably one of the most successful teams in the United rugby championships.  His team has won the trophy once and played host to the finals on two occasions. The team has now trebled its average attendance to being over 40,000 per event and sold out its final against Munster in 2023 under three hours.  The team has been consistently rated in the top ten club teams in the world.

The above descriptions about John’s involvement in rugby are not considered by him to be his greatest achievements.  He regards how this team has transformed itself on and off the field as of far greater importance.  This transformation has benefited the team and supporters – how it makes connections with the people of Cape Town, irrespective of background, colour, creed and status.

He built the mission of “Making Cape Town smile” which has been achieved from the side’s passionate supporter base, style of rugby.  Today the WP rugby team is fully representative and is a winning team.

He successfully oversaw the transition of the team from the old Newlands grounds to that of a dynamic new world at the DHL Stadium in Green Point.  John has been instrumental in securing the team’s long-term sustainability as being a driving force behind securing the private equity investment into the Stormers that will ensure their future.  He has also seen the link between the rugby and the city grow closer and averted the end of WP Rugby which was something mooted in the tabloids. 

John is convinced that this team will always belong to the people of the Cape; most-watched and supported in the United rugby Championship epitomising the best of the Cape.

John is married to Candice, they have a daughter, Annabel.

John's Father and Mother in Law, Professor and Mrs Tim Noakes attended as guests, as did John's elder sister Clare. 

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