JOHANNESBURG – Monday 12 September 2022 – Scores of staff, faculty and students gathered at the flagpoles at Henley Business School Africa’s Johannesburg campus at noon on Monday 12 September 2022, where the flags of South Africa and the United Kingdom flew at half mast, to remember the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s longest reigning monarch who died last Thursday.
The business school was doing this, explained dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley, because it was ‘uniquely and authentically South African and British’, part and parcel of Henley Business School in the UK, the oldest business school in Europe, yet an acclaimed African business school in its own right.
The Queen, he said, had played a major role to help Britain become a very diverse and different country during her 70-year reign and as head of the Commonwealth where she had overseen the successful decolonisation of the former British Empire. Africa had been a very important continent for her throughout, starting with her pledge to devote her life to the service of her people as a 21-year-old in Cape Town.
“Over the last 70 years, Her Majesty the Queen set an example of service, self-sacrifice and purpose that very few other world leaders have been able to emulate. Only one comes readily to mind and that would be our own Nelson Mandela, who devoted his entire life to the service of his people at incalculable cost to himself.
“It is no surprise that the Queen would build up an especially warm and close relationship on Madiba’s elevation as South Africa’s first democratically elected president or that she would return on his invitation on a state visit to this country in 1995, her first since her trip as a princess 48 years before.
“We remember her today, not just because she was the monarch, we remember her too for the exemplary life she lived. We honour her crystal-clear sense of purpose and her embodiment of the concept of servant leadership.”
Henley Africa, he said, prided itself on teaching the business leaders it produced to be agile and adaptable; to be strong yet vulnerable, to be resolute yet compassionate; to be courageous and tenacious, to be humble and to be gracious.
“Her Majesty embodied all of these consistently until the very end. Now, more than ever, we need leaders with a higher purpose predicated on the common good. We need leaders who will serve and not count the cost, leaders who serve others and not themselves.”
This, he said, would be Queen Elizabeth’s legacy. It would be her challenge for leaders who would follow, but equally a challenge that would neither be easily challenged nor equalled.
Foster-Pedley then led the assembled body in a two-minute silence in front of the flags flying at half-mast before encouraging them to sign the Book of Condolence that the school has opened in the reception on campus. The book will remain open until Tuesday next week, the day after the State funeral in London, when it will be sent to the British High Commission in Pretoria and from there to the palace in London.