80-year-old graduates with a PhD from University of Johannesburg
Henry Ford’s famous quote “Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young” rings true for 80-year-old PhD graduate Robert Jeffrey.
The accomplished scholar and retired businessman took to the stage at the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ's) Kingsway campus auditorium on Thursday to receive his PhD in engineering management.
With his family there to support him, Jeffrey nonetheless said he was nervous but also excited at the same time. He received a standing ovation as he received his degree.
Jeffrey’s thesis Assessing the actual costs of alternative electricity-generating technologies in SA in line with its economic development requirements' — is a subject that has interested him throughout his career.
Now retired, the grandfather of eight wanted to embark on a project that would give him some purpose, after losing the use of his legs.
Education is about developing the entire country and benefiting, through economic growth, the poor and unemployed. Sound education is the most important benefit a parent can give their child.Robert Jeffrey, 80-year-old PhD graduate
“It is necessary to have a purpose and I wanted a subject that would challenge me and would give a positive result for all South Africans, especially the unemployed and poor.”
Education was a natural path for Jeffrey who briefly followed in the footsteps of his late parents, who were teachers.
His illustrious career has seen Jeffrey work as a MD and financial director of major companies, an economic analyst and adviser to the Reserve Bank, work in construction and energy evaluation and work on mergers, acquisitions and capital projects in a variety of industries.
For the past seven years, he has served as an independent energy and economic consultant.
“I am extremely proud and satisfied about the objectives I set to get this PhD. Education is about developing the entire country and benefiting, through economic growth, the poor and unemployed. Sound education is the most important benefit a parent can give their child.”
His thesis is an independent economic analysis of the electricity generation industry in SA and an assessment of the best course of action that the country can take to develop its electricity-generation resources. In his thesis, which took four years to complete, Jeffrey considered the affect of reliability of power supply — be it fossil fuel or renewable — on the development of a country’s economy.
This thesis comes at a time when SA is facing an electricity crisis with consistent load-shedding causing strain on the economy.
Jeffrey chose UJ as the university allowed him the tools to work on a project that could lead to societal change.
Thesis supervisor Prof Andre Nel said Jeffrey was a pleasure to work with, even dedicating himself through the Covid-19 pandemic despite ill health.
“He worked hard and put an amazing amount of effort into the thesis. It addresses the very real problem of balancing the cost and availability of power from different sources, given their differing probability of delivery.”
An accomplished speaker, chairperson and presenter, Jeffrey plans to continue studying the progress in energy in the country while also focusing on photography.
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