Bowing out after 24 years: ‘I’ve had good times, exciting times, sad times’

14 December 2023 | Story Lisa Templeton. Photo Robyn Walker. Read time 6 min.
Charmaine Dublin is retiring from UCT after 24 years.
Charmaine Dublin is retiring from UCT after 24 years.

Stalwart at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Communication and Marketing Department (CMD), Charmaine Dublin is retiring after 24 years.

When Dublin started as a temp in the Undergraduate Funding Office, then next to the UCT Traffic Office on upper campus, paper was her stock in trade.

“There was so much paperwork and paper trails, lots of faxes and sending of photocopies. I don’t even recall working on a computer,” she laughed.

Since those early temping days, which included a stint in Law in the Leslie Social Science building, “very lonely in the middle of the building”, and in Human Resources – and her subsequent employment at CMD, where she has been ever since, largely as the personal assistant to CMD executive director, Gerda Kruger, so much as changed.

Highlights – beautiful buildings and beautiful friendships

CMD has grown exponentially since Dublin first served in the events department, booming from a handful of people, to the large department it is today. It is housed within Welgelegen, a 17th-century building, which takes its name, “well situated”, from the estate it once served. From here, via many units, it serves the university as a whole.

Looking back, Dublin fondly remembers another beautiful building, La Grotto. “We used to organise a braai on the spur of the moment, birthday celebrations would be a feast, and we had full-on Christmas meals with all the trimmings.”

Asked what she loved about her job, the answer is immediate: “The people I worked with. We were like a little family. We looked out for each other and made deep, lasting friendships.”


“Social media brought significant changes and growth, especially when you consider how communication was handled previously through print media. With online technology, there is constant change – challenges, but also opportunities,” Dublin said.

The other interesting change has been watching how transformation has played out within the department, and the greater university.


“It is gratifying to acknowledge they were transforming as a department, and to see the direction in which they were going.”

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “When you look across the board, even in our department, it was unbalanced. Transformation came slowly in the way things are structured, but in CMD we pushed for it, and it is gratifying to acknowledge they were transforming as a department, and to see the direction in which they were going.”

The last two years have been particularly trying, she noted.

“I’ve had good times, exciting times, sad times … I leave with scars, to be honest; a sadness. While transformation has been important, there is still a lot to be done. It’s a sensitive issue.”

A funny memory stands out

Looking back over the years, one incident always stands out for her.

It is around that oh-so-sensitive issue of who to seat next to whom at a big event.

It so happened that Isabella Scholtz, “such a beautifully spirited person and such a lady”, fielded one too many phone calls from people asking who they’d being sitting alongside, and objecting if they did not approve.

“I saw her get angry, and then she said: ‘Oh for God’s sake, I am not asking you to sleep with them!’”

It still makes Charmaine laugh out loud.

Hopes and wishes

“I would really like to see people be kind, gentle and accepting of one another, and acknowledge people for what they do and who they are,” Dublin said.

She would like to see the university uphold its mantle as world-renowned for its high academic standards and innovative thinking. Diversity within leadership, and commitment to transformation, are equally important, she added.

“We need true, open, honest [leadership] and transparency, or the university will limp along. As a little girl, I used to drive past UCT and I would think I would like to work there, but I never thought I actually would. And now I am retiring from it,” she said with a wry shake of her head.

And now? She deserves a small break, she said, and, as a very spiritual person, she would like to get involved in the church, helping the community.


“When I realised I was retiring, I had mixed feelings. I was excited, but also sad and anxious.”

Not one to sit idle, she might look into working as a carer or going into business with her daughter, Charne, 35, making home-cooked meals.

“When I realised I was retiring, I had mixed feelings. I was excited, but also sad and anxious. It snuck up on me. I will miss my friends, but it has been ok, actually.”

A lover of the outdoors, the beach and swimming, she also enjoys reading and watching feel-good movies, particularly the Japanese animation art of anime, her favourite being Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli.

“Their films always have children, and the music takes you into another dimension,” she said.

Which brings us to her big, hairy, audacious retirement dream: to visit Studio Ghibli in Koganei, Tokyo, with her daughter.

We wish her bon voyage on her new adventures, or as the Japanese might say: Go-buji de o-modori kudasai.

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