Oprah Winfrey is certainly somewhere, proud as anything, about Lindiwe Tsope.

In 2007, the media mogul launched the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. The South African boarding school, which was founded by Winfrey after an intense conversation with the late Nelson Mandela, was designed to provide opportunities to disadvantaged Black South African girls.

The inaugural class of the Academy graduated in 2011. 

One of those inaugural graduates was a young girl by the name of Lindiwe Tsope. And now, in addition to being a part of history for the Academy, she’s also a part of history as the first graduate to get a Ph.D.

After graduating from the Academy, Tsope went on to Rhodes University in South Africa. She recently completed her Ph.D. in sociology, making her the first graduate of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls to get a Ph.D.

And Tsope said she couldn’t have done it without the help of the media mogul.

“The level of support I received was from the ground up. I had people who believed in me so much, they started calling me ‘Doc’ even before I completed my qualification,” she said to the university, adding that Winfrey was the “driver” of her dreams.

While she was studying at Rhodes University, Tsope wore several hats, including tutor, mentor, teacher’s assistant, lecturer, and honors supervisor. But, she said, her most valuable experience came from being a lecturer. Even though she was concerned about how she would be perceived — and even though the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined her dreams for a year — Tsope said that she was grateful to be able to persevere.

“As a lecturer, I felt like my life had come around full circle, as I was also once a student in the very same class I was now teaching,” she said. “I had people calling me and reminding me what a big deal my achievement is. It is the greatest thing I have done for myself literally.”