A warm, windless evening set the tone for a relaxed outdoor reception on Thursday, 19 October, to bid farewell to University of Cape Town (UCT) staff members who will retire from the institution this year.
The blue carpet was rolled out for the outgoing academic; and professional, administrative support and service (PASS) staff, who were hosted in the leafy gardens of Glenara on lower campus. They were welcomed with an enticing selection of canapés and cocktails, before being invited to take their seats for the formal proceedings.
In total, 137 staff will retire this year, half of whom have served UCT for more than 20 years. Eight of the staff members who have been in the employ of the university for 40 years or more, with the longest-serving 2023 retiree having been with institution for 47 years.
Programme director, Bongani Ndaba, the acting executive director of Human Resources at UCT, opened proceedings.
“It is sad to see you depart, but what gives us pleasure is that we have the example of Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy [to draw on] – that people don’t leave UCT; they go on a short vacation, only to come back,” Ndaba joked, in reference to Emeritus Professor Reddy who came out of retirement to take the reins as vice-chancellor interim of UCT in March this year.
“You have each helped make UCT what it is today, through your skills, energy, hard work, discipline and dedication.”
Ndaba then called upon Chair of Council Norman Arendse to deliver the official welcome.
“Many of you have been part of the UCT family through times of historic change, just as our country has been,” Arendse remarked. “You have also been part of a journey of transformation and change. But what has always been a constant are those of you who have served selflessly through the different periods in the life of the university. However, it’s not the challenges that define us – you define UCT. You have each helped make UCT what it is today, through your skills, energy, hard work, discipline and dedication.”
Marking the moment
Each retiree was announced by name to make their way to the front of the stage to be congratulated by Reddy and have their picture taken with him. They made up four groups, according to their years of service: two to 21 years, 21 to 30, 31 to 39 and 40 to 47 years.
Two guest speakers who had been nominated to speak on behalf of academic employees and PASS staff then took the stage. Yasmin Fazel-Ellahi, who has served the university for 28 years and was a member of the UCT Employees Union, said it was an honour to represent an incredible community of PASS retirees.
“In my capacity as a union organiser, I had the pleasure of advocating for the rights and well-being of PASS employees,” she said. “This event marks the culmination of our lifelong dedication to the betterment of our institution. It is a celebration of the countless milestones achieved, the bonds forged and the positive impact that we collectively had on the lives of our colleagues. We’ve helped shape this institution as much as this institution has shaped us. Thank you to each one of you for being part of this journey, and here’s to a new beginning, shared memories and the legacy we leave behind.”
Professor Robert Knutsen of the Electron Microscope Unit in the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment, who has been with UCT for over 35 years, addressed the audience on behalf of academic employees. He spoke about the aspects of campus life that sustain academics and the transformation that he’s seen over the years at the university.
“It is the energy of the students that you thrive off; the knowledge and camaraderie of your colleagues; and the support of a big institution like UCT,” he said. “I can also say that this university has experienced tremendous change over time, to the point where, in recent times, I felt uncomfortable and at times alienated. That’s good because it means we’re getting a sense of what it’s like to be on the other side. I really think UCT is moving in the right direction.”
Professor Knutsen made a point of urging UCT to improve on its “face time”, by limiting the use of digital communication mechanisms.
“We have lost the human touch and we need to bring that back,” he said. “That’s what really makes a university – we need to have contact with staff.”
As the evening drew to a close, Reddy quipped, “Please don’t use me as a role model for retirement,” before raising a glass to the retirees for their years of service to the institution and the new chapter that awaits them.
“As you enter into this new journey called retirement, may you find gifts inside yourself that now have the chance to blossom,” he said. “As you apply your mind to a new set of challenges, may you feel yourself awaken to fresh and new possibilities. As you turn to further strengthening your ties with family and loved ones, may you keep alive the bonds that you have made with your colleagues.”
Professor Sue Harrison, the deputy vice-chancellor of Research and Internationalisation, concluded the event with a vote of thanks.
“To all the retirees, thank you for the service you have given to UCT, the manner in which you have built UCT’s reputation, and the friendship and camaraderie that you have contributed to the university,” she said.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.