When people think of South Africa, they think of a place that is rich in culture, history and abundant resources. Often, we do not think of the successful people who left to make a distinctly South African mark all over the world. In this week's blog, we focus on five South Africans who are using their heritage to dominate their respective fields in the USA.
Richman Mahlangu - University of Las Vegas
Richman Mahlangu had to endure the hardship of growing up in a South African township during the Apartheid era. His passion for tennis put his life on a different path to most township children. Richman's first experience of tennis was hitting a ball against the wall with a time-worn racket that was missing one too many strings. Tim Gray, a local tennis coach, took note of Richman's drive and offered to coach him for free. Their bond grew, and so did Richman's talent and determination which lead him to receive a tennis scholarship from the University of Las Vegas in 2002, where he obtained a Master’s in Educational Psychology. He now dedicates his time to coaching his two sons who have both received full tennis scholarships to Harvard and Georgetown University.
Nomvimbi Meriwether - American University
Nomvimbi Meriwether grew up in Soweto South Africa during the apartheid era. Despite all the hardships black South Africans had to face, Mrs Meriwether managed to become one of the first black female lawyers in South Africa. After obtaining her Law Degree, Mrs Meriwether crossed the Atlantic and enrolled in the MBA programme at American University, where she met her husband, Dr Wilhelm Meriwether, who also happened to be the first African-American accepted into the Duke University Medical School. In 1987 the couple travelled back to South Africa where they spent eight years at a rural hospital helping over half a million people. Their daughter, Nana, is the 2012 winner of Miss USA and she hopes to continue what her parents started by helping the less fortunate in South Africa.
Roelof Botha - Stanford University
Roelof Botha grew up in South Africa and attended Jan Van Riebeeck High School. He studied Actuarial Science at the University of Cape Town where he achieved the highest ever recorded GPA in UCT's history. He moved to the States where he obtained his MBA at Stanford University. Botha was listed 22nd on Forbes Most Successful Venture Capitalist list and is a crucial member of many well-known companies such as Paypal, Instagram, Tumblr, Youtube and Weebly to name but a few. He is currently a partner at Sequoia Capital and has a net worth in the billions of dollars.
Liam Pedersen - George Washington University
Liam Pedersen was born and raised in Cape Town South Africa before completing his honours degree at Rhodes University. He eventually found himself studying M.S.E.E at George Washington University and received his PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. Dr Pedersen currently works for NASA where he builds robotic systems to find life on Mars as well as robots that look for microbes in the Polar Ice Caps.
Elon Musk - University of Pennsylvania & Stanford University
Elon Musk grew up in Pretoria South Africa and attended Pretoria Boys High School. At 17 years old Musk moved to Canada to avoid being a part of the South African Military compulsory programme. He majored in Business and Physics at the University of Pennsylvania and attended Stanford University to get his PhD in Physics. He only landed up attending Stanford for two days before dropping out to focus his attention on his up and coming company called Zip2 Corporation which was bought for $307 million. He later played a major role in online payment services where his X.com company eventually became Paypal. Musk has a very interesting vision of the future and is doing everything he can to become a pioneer for future generations. In 2016 he was ranked 21st of Forbes Most Powerful People list.
South Africans are gaining a lot of international attention and are often complimented on the way they are changing the world. Whether it be a tennis father making his kids realise their potential, a lawyer helping million's of people or a philanthropist trying to make the world a better place, all these South Africans have the same thing in common: Determination. I think this is something every person who grows up in the Rainbow Nation gets instilled with.