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The Durban University of Technology hosted a Virtual Retirement Farewell Dinner for retirees: Mrs Lucille Webster, Ms Nicky Muller, Dr Thiru Pillay and Professor Brian Pearce on 30 August 2021 on Microsoft Teams.

The four retirees were given a fitting tribute and honoured in a special virtual function for their sterling work excellence, contributions and achievements over the years that they have each served at the university.

The Programme Director at the event was Mr Alan Khan, Senior Director: Division of Corporate Affairs. In his opening remarks, Mr Khan explained the programme and expressing the wonderful time to reflect, rejoice and to say thank you to these colleagues who have dedicated so many years of service to students, staff and the entire university community.

“They are now retiring and moving on to the next chapter of their interesting lives,” he said.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu paid tribute to the four retirees, saying the institution is sad to be losing to retirement some of DUT stalwarts who have immensely and selflessly contributed to building a great university it is today.

“We tried to make this a hybrid function-part physical, part online but with the rise of COVID-19 infections, especially in our province we were stopped dead in our tracks, hence the virtual function. Thanks to Mr Khan and his colleagues, I’m aware that the function has a little touch of being a hybrid one with goodies being sent to various people, including the celebrants, thank you very much for that innovation,” he said.

Prof Mthembu further relayed that over the years his relationship with the retirees had transcended to him becoming friends, becoming each other’s confidantes, sharing many personal stories of experiences of joy and sorrow in their life journey. He said that other than these personal bonds there were many intellectual and professional engagements that provided for neutral growth and development, and he is very grateful for having met these four colleagues.

“On the other hand we are sad that this necessary phase of life is taking away from us these colleagues who have immense institutional knowledge and memory. We will certainly be poorer without these experiences; without the knowledge they have or institutional memory in particular about DUT. They have given their all to ongoing growth, to repositioning and making DUT, different, upended and transformed,” he said.

He stressed that this event was about reminiscing about the individual and collective legacies they leave behind. It must be an evening of giving them validations that their efforts over so many years will never be in vain.

Following Prof Mthembu’ s farewell message, Prof Nokuthula Sibiya, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning gave more insight into the contributions of each retiree.

She spoke about the former Director of Library Services at DUT, Mrs Lucille Webster who bowed out on 31 July 2021 after reaching her retirement age.

She relayed that Webster, over the years, had made herself available to serve the profession by being an active member in the field, hereby being part of driving the foundation of academic libraries for the future.

Prof Sibiya indicated that Webster had been elected and nominated to serve on various bodies such as National Council for Library and Information Services (NCLIS), a statutory body for the library profession in South Africa. She was an Executive member of the National Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) and in 2017 and was elected as an Executive member of the Board of the International Association of University Libraries (IATUL), but stepped down from this position in 2020.

She added that in 2018 together with Mr Sagren Moodley, Webster received the Vice-Chancellors Award for Building a Learning Organisation, this related to her library initiatives in staff training and development. Prof Sibiya also spoke about the former Director of Institutional Planning, Ms Nicky Muller who said farewell to the DUT community, after a career spanning 39 years at four institutions, as well as eight different jobs at DUT, starting as a commerce subject librarian at DUT’s City Campus.

She explained that Muller started working at the institution in 1990, had held various other positions within the library, including helping to drive the merger process of the library systems and library services between ML Sultan and Technikon Natal.

Prof Sibiya said Muller also had a number of excursions to scholarly writing and in particular through her involvement in the Southern African Association for Institutional Research, (SAAIR), where she served a two-year period as a member of the Executive Committee, and then a further two years as Vice-President and Secretary of the Association. She indicated that Muller also had the opportunity to contribute to a number of books on Institutional Research, one of which she co-edited, and she had also contributed to a number of other book chapters in other books on institutional research.

Furthermore, Prof Sibiya spoke on the esteemed Prof Brian Pearce’s nearly 40-year academic journey, who has now retired from his academic role as Acting Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts and Design, at the end of June 2021, to focus on his love of directing theatrical productions.

She conveyed that he is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an Honorary Life Member of the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa; and was the Editor of the accredited journal, Shakespeare in Southern Africa, from 2000 to 2008.

Prof Sibiya indicated that Prof Pearce also shares a love for theatre, having directed a number of plays in the Courtyard Theatre such as Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, or Shakespeare’s The Tempest, directing Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel and his last production was in 2014, when he directed The Island by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona in the Arthur Smith Hall, at the DUT City Campus.

Reflecting on the final retiree, Prof Sibiya said that after more than a 30-year career span at DUT, Dr Thiru Pillay, the University’s Registrar, has retired at the end of August 2021. She conveyed that Dr Pillay, whose role was a diverse one and included being the custodian of student records and all policies, had been fulfilling this crucial role as Registrar for three years at DUT.

She also said that he was the Registrar of the former ML Sultan Technikon, one of DUT’s predecessor institutions, and following the merger, acted as DUT’s Registrar for a period, while holding the substantive position of Deputy Registrar for many years. Prof Sibiya indicated that his more than 30-year career in higher education has been in different capacities within the Registrar’s office.

Prof Sibusiso Moyo Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, spoke on the immense contributions made by retirees to research, innovation and engagement.

“I think what we learnt from Ms Muller, Dr Pillay, Mrs Webster and Prof Pearce is that to work across sectors it is important for us to really understand what each of those divisions do and to support each other to achieve the goals of the university, and I think if anything, that is one part we will really miss,” she said.

She also relayed that it being Women’s month in August, she wanted to thank the two amazing women Mrs Webster and Ms Muller for all the years that they had spent at the university and for making it this far, as it’s not a trivial responsibility. She also thanked Prof Pearce and Dr Pillay for their contributions, and on behalf of the university as well.

There were also colleague acknowledgements that formed part of the event with Dr Lavern Samuels and Mr Sagren Moodley sharing their memories of Mrs Webster, having had the opportunity to work closely with her over the years.

“We will miss her for her leadership, collegiality and friendship, I know I will miss sitting next to her at Senate meetings, so I have invited her to join me on the golf course instead and I hope we will have some time together engaging in this activity,” chuckled Dr Samuels.

For Moodley, he indicated that Webster had driven him and her library colleagues to be different.

“Different in the way that we treat our people, in the way we acknowledge our people for good efforts and in the way we help our people grow in a way that is beyond what is expected. These strong values and principles remained the main ingredient for the library’s sustained progress and success,” he said proudly.

Sharing their memories of their valuable time shared at the university with Muller was Prof Darren Lortan and Dr David Mohale. Dr Mohale took the opportunity to also wish Ms Muller and Dr Pillay well, saying that DUT will surely miss them.

Dr Chris De Beer and Prof Kevin Duffy also relayed some exciting times shared with Prof Pearce. Prof Duffy conveyed that Prof Pearce is one of the most hardworking people he knows and has probably contributed more than he has received.

Prof Suren Singh spoke on his amazing friendship with Dr Pillay and Mr, Pravinand Maharaj, (close friend of the retiree), who performed a musical item dedicated to Dr Pillay, who is also an avid musical maestro as well.

“He is the new Bob Dylan as of 1st September this week,” quipped Prof Singh.

“You are a remarkable work colleague and great friend who spent memorable times working with us all at Executive Management level, as well as your great team in your office. I’m sure they will doth upon you. I’m also aware that the Vice-Chancellor has huge respect for you and will surely miss you as well. Your contributions to our shared success will stay in our hearts forever. Thank you for your contributions to DUT and we will remember those sweet memories of how you shared them with us at DUT. Goodbye DUT’s great friend and enjoy life to the fullest,” said Prof Singh.

The time had then come for a few words from the esteemed, guests of honour with Mrs Webster expressing her gratitude to the DUT family for all the love and support throughout the years. She said DUT provided her with opportunities to grow, develop and recognise the input of the Library to student success.

“My colleagues, Nicky Muller, Prof Pearce, Dr Thiru Pillay, I have worked with all three of you over the years, it was amazing working with you. You are library champions, we knew we could go to you at any time for anything,” she said.

She also thanked Prof Pearce, for transforming the Brickfield library to what it is, as she pointed out that this particular library is one of DUT’s shining stars.

Mrs Webster added that she cannot thank everyone enough for their contribution to her life.

“It been a hectic time and as I said it has been the best of times and it was the worst of times, but I think overall it was the best of times and I would not have changed anything for that. Thank you everyone and best of luck to everyone,” she expressed.

Ms Muller, said some people have asked her what kind of footprint she wants to leave at the university.

“For me it’s not about the things that I have done or help build, but rather the relationships that I have formed and the mentoring of young staff,” she said.

Muller thanked her colleagues Prof Lortan and Dr Mohale for their tributes.

“I just want to say colleagues, may you all live in peace and may you contribute to a world of justice, of love and of peace,” she said elatedly.

Prof Pearce said he was thankful for all the opportunities that he had at DUT and expressed his sincere thanks to his colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Design, the leadership of the organisation but also to the hard work and excellence of DUT academic staff across the university.

“I believe that DUT will go on to even greater achievements,” he said.

Adding his sentiments, Dr Pillay, said he wanted to say thanks to the university and all those involved for having this farewell function, it is most appreciated and will be remembered by his family and himself for a long time.

“I want to thank all those present gracing this event with your presence, my colleagues, my friends and my family here, it makes everything seem so special, I truly appreciated it,” he said.

He also thanked Prof Singh for his well-thought out address and was touched by the attention to detail in his remarks.

“Your words will always be remembered by me sincerely. Prof Singh and I go back many years to the ML Sultan Technikon and I always marvel that he is an academic and of his accomplishments. To my close friend Pravinand, thank you for your wonderful musical rendition. It brought some idealistic memories of the past, much neglected in my working years. I promise to try and make amends for that with more time on my hands. I don’t think I would have done well in this job as Registrar or even as Deputy Registrar, a position that I held for a number of years, without the support I received by all of my colleagues, particularly those in the Registrar’s office. I will be eternally grateful to you,” he said.

Dr Pillay also thanked his family, for their support that has kept him fairly intact over the years.
“To my wife and three children, thank you for being who you are. To my colleagues in Management who I have worked very closely with in recent years, the DVCs, Prof Sibiya and Prof Moyo, members of the EMC, members of the UPRF, it was really an incredible experience working with you. A special thanks must go to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mthembu, who has really played a special role in my work in the last three years. Thank you Prof Mthembu for everything. I also enjoyed a very special and professional relationship with the Chair of Council, Mr Wiseman Madinane. Mr Madinane, in my view, is one of South Africa’s great leaders and Mr Madinane, you have always impressed me with how you have steered the Council, making the correct decisions at the right time,” he said.

Dr Pillay relayed that his decision to retire early was a decision he and his wife had made many years ago.

“You do realise that you have far more years behind you than you have ahead of you. For me, I am quite mindful of the fact that every year of health that we have at this age is to be savoured and treasured,” he said.

He reiterated that his decision to retire was a personal decision he had made several years ago which was difficult for him to extricate himself from mentally.

Dr Pillay said upon his retirement, he does not have any great plans but aims to focus on taking things easy for a short while and then pursuing a number of passions and hobbies that has been dormant for a while, or paid little attention to.
“I look forward to spending more leisure time with family and friends, doing some travelling when the world opens itself up to such possibilities again. So colleagues at DUT, no matter how we look at it, this is goodbye and undoubtedly I will miss you. I wish you all the best and the three retirees, my best wishes are with you as well,” he said.

Prof Theo Andrews, Advisor and Executive: Institutional Review – Office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal toasted to the four retirees wishing them all the best in their retirement.

The evening concluded with a vote of thanks by Dr Vuyo Mthethwa, Senior Director: Human Resources at DUT.
“I just want to thank the Corporate Affairs team for putting together this occasion, it has been different but very important and also a very significant milestone for the four retirees who we are celebrating. I would also like to thank the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Mthembu, DVC’s who gave speeches in recognition of the retirees. I would also like to thank all the people that have participated in this function, including members of EMC, Council members-if there are any present, UPRF, DVCs, Heads of Departments, and the rest of the DUT family. I also want to thank the families of the four retirees because it was the sacrifices of their families that has made them reach this very important milestone,” she said.

Pictured: Mrs Lucille Webster

Pictured: Ms Nicky Muller

Pictured: Dr Thiru Pillay

Pictured; Prof Brian Pearce

Pictured: A toast being given to the retirees.

Waheeda Peters

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