A farewell to UCT after 42 years

03 November 2021 | Story Nadia Krige. Photo Supplied. Read time 5 min.
Sigi Rich will retire from UCT after 42 years.
Sigi Rich will retire from UCT after 42 years.

Despite all the stress that comes with graduation season, Sigi Rich, the Student Records Office (SRO) manager at the University of Cape Town (UCT), says it’s one of the things she will miss most about her job when she retires at the end of this year.

As her 42-year career at UCT comes to a close, Rich reminisces with fondness about the challenges and rewards of arranging graduation ceremonies – especially the pre-COVID-19 in-person occasions – and ensuring they run as smoothly as possible.

“I don’t think that anyone not involved with the organisation of graduation ceremonies can possibly understand how stressful it is,” she says. “Once all the preparation is complete, the next stage kicks in – and the start of the ceremony, with the academic procession, waits for no one.”


“The satisfaction of a job well done and the ‘high’ once it’s all over is worth all the pain.”

And of course, there are always one or two latecomers running along barefoot at the very last minute, black gowns flying out behind them, high heels or smart shoes in hand.

Why would she miss something so stressful? “My colleagues would think I’ve lost the plot for saying that!” she says. “But the satisfaction of a job well done and the ‘high’ once it’s all over is worth all the pain.”

A fondness for UCT

Rich’s journey with UCT started in the early 1970s, when she enrolled to study music. However, midway through the course she realised that a career in music was not for her and decided to pursue a secretarial diploma instead.

She spent a year working at the School of Radiology at Groote Schuur Hospital, and then applied for a job at the UCT Fees Office.

“The application was unsuccessful, but my name was passed along to Duke Metcalf, who managed the SRO, and was seeking someone to fill the position of receptionist,” Rich recalls.

This time around she was appointed to the position; and so, in 1979, Rich started her career in the SRO.

“A fondness for UCT and the SRO kept me there, and I worked my way through the ranks until being appointed to the position of manager of the Records Office, where I remained – until, 42 years later, I’m passing the baton along to the younger generation,” she says.  

At the forefront of progress

For a new generation – who, studies show, tend to hop between jobs fairly frequently – four decades in one working environment may sound like an eternity.

But Rich emphasises that although she never changed jobs, her job certainly changed quite a bit over the years, keeping things interesting.

“The job changed significantly over the years, and my current position is completely different to the one I initially occupied,” she says. “In retrospect, I was at the forefront of technological progress.”


“I’ve always been envious of friends who take long breaks in December and January; and now, finally, it’s my turn to enjoy a summer holiday.”

Between 1979 and 2021, technology certainly advanced rapidly; and Rich found herself upgrading from a typewriter to a bulky computer, complete with a monochrome monitor. Soon enough this was followed by colour monitors, and eventually slim and suave flat screens.

“Now we all have laptops and can work from home! It’s been an incredible journey,” Rich says. “I feel pretty sure that people who experienced the introduction of the first motor vehicles must have felt the same way, living through an era of change.”

Summer holiday, at last

The end of the year and the beginning of the next, making up one of the busiest periods on the academic calendar, have never really been synonymous with rest and relaxation for Rich.

“I’ve always been envious of friends who take long breaks in December and January; and now, finally, it’s my turn to enjoy a summer holiday.”

Despite her excitement around taking a proper summer break for the first time in decades, Rich added that she will be leaving with a heavy heart.

“I will miss my UCT family. Over the years I’ve been so fortunate to work with amazing colleagues, and currently there are some very special ones with whom I interact – in my department, and in many departments across the university,” she says.

“Special mention must be made of my line manager, Karen van Heerden, the deputy registrar. I am so grateful for having had the privilege of working with Karen. She has been such a supportive and caring line manager, and a source of inspiration.”

Although Rich doesn’t have anything specific lined up yet, she hopes to spend some of her retirement doing volunteer work with the elderly.

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