Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman has been hailed as a “global leader” by Rutgers University-Camden which today conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate in Business. This is the entrepreneur and philanthropist’s seventh honorary degree and one of numerous international awards. Pick n Pay Transformation Director, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, was also present at the Rutgers School of Business to deliver the commencement address to an audience of more than 2,000 people, including 351 students receiving their undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon recounted Ackerman’s distinguished career growing four small supermarkets into the highly respected retail giant, Pick n Pay, which now employees more than 80,000 people in more than 1,100 stores across eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The visionary businessman sought to not only grow his business; he empowered the communities where Pick n Pay operated. Mr Ackerman and his wife Wendy established the Ackerman Family Educational Trust in the 1970s, at the height of apartheid, by donating two percent of their personal shares to the foundation.
Ackerman became known and respected for his “four legs of the table” business vision, which articulates the core guiding principles of strong administrative operations, high-quality merchandise, commitment to social responsibility and sustainability, and the inherent value and dignity of all people.
“The success of your corporate ventures is rooted in sound business practice and, perhaps more importantly, in your unyielding commitment to innovation, diversity, inclusion, and civic service - all values that we at Rutgers share and embrace,” says Haddon.
“These are not simply words for inclusion in a corporate annual report,” said Haddon. “You have lived those values at risk to yourself.”
As a business leader during South Africa’s apartheid period, Ackerman defied the South African government to protect the most impoverished and vulnerable of his fellow citizens. Despite crippling government fines, he subsidised bread prices to make certain that basic food items would remain accessible to the majority of South Africans, says Haddon.
Ackerman’s commitment to mentoring and developing entrepreneurs in South Africa opened doors to employment and meaningful economic opportunity in the nation, and greatly heightened the dignity and respect for his fellow citizens. Education has always been close to this humanitarian’s heart and other initiatives include the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development at the University of Cape Town.
“Your life’s work has grown economic opportunity and also expanded opportunities for equality in your home nation of South Africa,” said Haddon.
“Your business philosophy inspires entrepreneurs worldwide to strive toward a future where doing well and doing good are twin prerequisites for economic and social success.”
Suzanne Ackerman-Berman was hailed as a “passionate proponent for equality, job creation and skills development”. Ackerman-Berman founded the Pick n Pay Small Business Incubator in 2007 to create opportunities for entrepreneurs to access the formal market. Pick n Pay’s inaugural Boost your Biz competition will announce the top 25 small businesses that have won an opportunity to become part of the retailer’s national supply network in June.
Ackerman-Berman said during her address that it was incredible honour to be invited to speak at her own father’s graduation ceremony. “My father, who has been my greatest role model, is a builder of bridges. He is a leader who has strived to develop connections and links between people of different backgrounds; to create bonds that look past colour, language, ethnicity or religion. So my focus is on appealing to the graduates going out into the world to also be builders of bridges, rather than builders of walls; to reach out and help transform societies and communities where they come from by sharing their skills and expertise with others who haven’t had similar opportunities.”
Ackerman-Berman emphasised the importance of providing mentorship and support. “As a corporation we have always believed that we should never take out more than we put in. The model that my parents lived by – that doing good is good business – is now more relevant than ever before. Assisting those previously disadvantaged with access to the formal economy is the key to unlocking economic freedom, not only in SA but for many developing nations.”