During the height of apartheid oppression in the 80’s, Mitchell’s Plain Athol Williams had to write his exams with soldiers in the room. Despite the harsh realities of apartheid, Athol persevered and in 2017, he became the first person to receive Masters Degrees from five of the top universities in the world.
This week it was confirmed that not only did Athol complete his Master of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, but he also earn a distinction for his thesis. Athol has completed a Masters of Science in Corporate Finance from the London Business School, a Masters in Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master in Public Administration from Harvard, and a Master of Science in Political Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He also has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Wits.
For most his adult life, Athol was a wealthy investment specialist, but he had always had a passion for poetry. He soon turned his attention to becoming a full time poet and writer, and has won several accolades for his work. The distinction that he received was for his innovative contribution to literature.
“Just like Wayde van Niekerk showed us, you can start in the outside lane and still win gold. In most of my academic endeavours I started in the outside lane, apartheid education did not prepare me for Oxford I had to educate myself,” says Athol.
His new book of poetry titled Invitation is a collection of poems that reflects the beauty of the human experience that is found in silence, in personal endeavour and in relationships. Athol is also the co-founder of Read to Rise, a literacy project, which has distributed books to over 40 000 pupils in and around Cape Town.
His next step is to complete a PhD at Oxford which he wants to complete in two years. Of his time spent in London, Athol says, “Oxford is like Disneyland for nerds, it has such richness of intellectual resources and access to amazing minds, but Cape Town is home and where my heart is, and that will never change.”