Campuses bid farewell to the Vice-Chancellor

Posted on November 29, 2018

As the academic year grinds to a halt on the various campuses, and the sound of feet on the pavements lessens, the university community attended the final farewell functions for Prof Cheryl de la Rey, who is heading to the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

Faculty of Veterinary Science says goodbye

The faculty hosted a farewell function on 19 November in a lecture hall in the Arnold Theiler Building. Prof Vinny Naidoo, Dean of the Faculty welcomed the guests that included former dean, Prof Gerry Swan. Prof Dietmar Holm, Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning spoke on behalf of the academic staff while Head of Marketing Chris van Blerk greeted Prof De la Rey on behalf of support staff. Riaan Crafford, President of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Student Council spoke on behalf of the students. Entertainment was provided by Michaela Ball who sang and Lerato—who recited a poem.

Prof De la Rey chats to Riaan Crafford, the student council president.

Photographed at the Onderstepoort farewell event are from left Prof Gerry Swan, retired  Dean; Riaan Crafford, student council president; Prof Naidoo, current Dean; Prof De la Rey; and Prof Dietmar Holm, Deputy Dean.

The future beckons

On 20 November the Chancellor of the University, Prof Wiseman Nkuhlu, hosted a cocktail function in the dining hall of the Future Africa Campus. Ambassadors and high commissioners, vice-chancellors of other universities, Chair of the UP Council, Ms Futhi Mtoba and her predecessor, Prof Esmé du Plessis attended the function. Former VCs Prof Flip Smit and Prof Johan van Zyl were there as were current and former members of the UP Council, as well as former and current members of the UP Executive. Also present were UP deans and directors, director-generals from government departments, CEOs of science councils and other organisations as well as donors.

In his speech, Prof Nkuhlu commended the VC on the way she took charge.  “Not only did you navigate around obstacles and storms, your skilful sailing has assured the university’s prosperous voyage.”

Ms Mtoba said the University is a different institution to the one Prof De la Rey took over in 2009. “One just has to look at the skyline of the different campuses to see the changes that were created under your watch. You committed wholeheartedly and worked tirelessly toward the development and modernisation of our campuses and facilities.”

Prof Stephanie Burton, Vice-Principal: Research and Postgraduate Studies delivered a message on behalf of the UP Executive Management. She said when she joined UP in 2011, the roll-out of UP2025 was about to start. “It was clear that UP had embarked on a process of transformation and change that would entrench our identity as a research university, making a real, and recognised, contribution to knowledge and to society.”

She said: “Over the nine years of her tenure at UP, by my conservative estimates, Prof De la Rey has probably attended about 2000 dinners, hosted and chosen menus—and outfits!—for at least 500 major functions, and on behalf of the University, she has probably had at least 11 500 cups of tea and coffee!” 

In the words of Ms Futhi Mtoba, Chair of Council, “The Future Africa Campus is a tribute to the work Prof De la Rey has done in creating world-class facilities of which we can all be proud.”

UP Chancellor Prof Wiseman Nkuhlu, presents Prof De la Rey with the Scholarship Fund scroll.

Hatfield bids adieu

The function at the Aula was marked by style, good taste and simplicity as Prof Elsabe Loots, Dean of Economic and Management Sciences; and Prof Jean Lubuma, Dean of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, delivered their respective farewell messages to Prof De lay Rey. Mr Robert Moropa, Director of Library Services delivered a farewell message on behalf of the Directors’ Management Committee.

Prof Loots remarked on the strategic redirection the University has embarked on. “Under her leadership the research outputs have increased; the percentage staff with PhDs are now aligned with the expectations of a research intensive university; and the number of postgraduate degrees annually awarded are of the highest in the country.”

Prof Lubuma thanked Prof De la Rey for the initiatives she spearheaded from which NAS and EBIT benefitted. The establishment of institutional and faculty research themes and UP2025 embarked UP into the inter- and transdisciplinary space, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the fourth industrial revolution. He mentioned projects such as the Future Africa Institute, the Institute for Big Data and the SMART transportation project. He said Prof De la Rey’s legacy is set to include more facilities to come such as Engineering 4, Bio-economy and Agriculture in the Future Africa Institute.

Mr Moropa mentioned how Prof De la Rey inspired thinking directed towards the future, and that her “guidance and subtle nudging” added impetus to the DMC’s strategic thinking. Both he and the VC agreed that the ‘nudging’ was not always so subtle.

Prof De la Rey in her message said that her departure was announced in June already. “At the time it felt unreal. I decided that I was not going to be especially nice, but to carry on in my normal friendly and fierce manner.”

She singled out 2016—when the first five-year plan concluded—as the year she saw the strategic plans bearing results. It was also a momentous year in terms of student unrest. Prof De la Rey said the University drew on its historical sense of resilience to complete the year and restore the University to normality.

Diana Cochrane-Van Eeden, the VC’s secretary, then presented Prof De la Rey with books containing messages from members of staff.

Prof Michael Pepper, Director of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine, with Prof De la Rey. The institute was one of the research entities that received much encouragement from the VC.

Support staff workers at the farewell function. Many of those who benefited from insourcing expressed their sincere appreciation to the VC. 

The TuksKlub 60+ had their year-end function at hpc on 22 November, where they bid Prof De la Rey farewell. The function took the form of a three-course meal. Mr Louis Cloete, chair of the club, presented Prof De la Rey with a gift.

Guests at the TuksKlub 60+ enjoy lunch at the hpc.

- Author Marissa Greeff

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