Recognition awards 2014

Category: Role Model, for embodying the spirit of what it means to be a St Mary’s Old Girl

Val Kempis (Raeburn – 1951) 
Circumstances totally outside her control dictated that Val Kempis left St Mary's some 63 years ago at the end of what would now be called her Grade 10 year. Ever since, she has been a consistently supportive and enthusiastic member of the wider St Mary's School family. Not an Old Girls' or even St Mary's event goes by where Val is not present, and her dedication and encouragement of all things St Mary's is quite astounding. Val's sheer passion for the school has continued in two further generations of her family attending the school – her daughter Deidre Shepherd (1982) and currently her to granddaughters, Ashleigh and Kate. Val has been recognised here in the category of role models, as we believe the kind of passion that she demonstrates towards St Mary's is a fine example to all. 

Category: The Arts

Mpho Matsipa (1994) 
Mpho, who is working towards her PhD in Architecture and African Urbanism at the University of California, Berkeley, where she gained her MSc, is a lecturer at the Wits School of Architecture and Planning. She gained her degree in Architecture from the University of Cape Town and was recently awarded a Doctorate from Harvard. Mpho is a director of Studio-X Johannesburg, which aims to create a public platform to explore alternative imaginaries of the city, with particular focus on the future of global connection, productive collaboration and exchange. Mpho has worked as an architect and been shortlisted in two prestigious national design competitions. She has curated several exhibitions, including that of the South Africa Pavilion at the 11th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale. She has received several academic awards and scholarships, including the Fulbright Award and a Carnegie Grant. 

Category: Arts and Sciences

Yumna Laher (2007) 
While at St Mary’s, Yumna had the distinction of being awarded a Victrix Honorum blazer after gaining Academic, Cultural and Service Honours. Yumna completed a BA Honours in International Relations and an MA degree in International Relations at Wits. She won a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, arguably the most sought-after scholarship globally, where the recipient has to display “the moral force of character and instinct to lead”. Yumna was an active and dedicated member of the Old Girls' Committee for a number of years. She reflects: “Although ecstatic about receiving the scholarship, it has since left me with a deep sense of responsibility to use the opportunity I have been given with care. The Mandela Rhodes experience has reinforced parts of my character I hope to be remembered for; the dignity with which I treat others, the honesty with which I approach my decisions, and the integrity with which I live my life. It has allowed me to be me; a little more grounded, more confident, definitely more qualified and infinitely blessed with the experience of a lifetime.” (University of the Witwatersrand website) 

Category: Role Model

Jess Standish White (2009)
Jess’ life and achievements epitomise the holistic outlook in which St Mary’s believes. Her matric results were awe-inspiring and she was an incredible St Mary’s girl who always displayed kindness, enthusiasm and dedication. She excelled on the cultural and academic fronts, and also played hockey for the 1st team. Jess studied Business Science and Economics at the University of Cape Town, and has subsequently become the recipient of an Oxford scholarship. She is passionate about education, leadership and service. In 2009, during her matric year as head of Clayton House, she organised an HIV testing drive to create awareness and stimulate open discussion. 

Category: Sport

Lil ‘Lilian’ du Plessis (2011) 
At 21, Lilian is one of the youngest members of the South African national women’s hockey team, having represented South Africa at both the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. Her sights are set on the next Olympic Games. At school, according to Ros Howell, Lilian spent hours training on her own to perfect some of the tactics for which she has become famous … the drag flick and the reverse stick hit. Lilian was also a good rower and technical all-rounder. She is also recognised here for her kindness and sportsmanship on and off the field. Lilian played in the Old Girls vs St Mary’s hockey match on Old Girls’ Day alongside two other previous recipients of this award, Shelley Russell (2005) and Liza-Marie Deetleefs (2005). 

Category: Community

Pauline Grainger
Pauline is not an Old Girl, but has recently been recognised as an honorary one. She joined St Mary’s in 1972, taught English and History and later headed up the History Department. It is appropriate that Pauline receives this award after all of the years she has selflessly served the St Mary’s family, culminating in the writing of the school’s history in 2013. Celebrating 125 Years of St Mary’s is an informative and entertaining read about the school, especially its pupils and teachers. We formally thank Pauline for ensuring that the treasured memories of all that has made St Mary’s have been painstakingly recorded.