18 October 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Stephen Collett
Prof Nico Luwes
Paying tribute to staff members who have help build the Kovsie legacy such as Prof Nico Luwes.

Institutions are people. Staff members who keep universities going are the champions of education, be it in academic or support functions. This year’s Recognition of Service Awards honoured the commitment of 64 staff members to the University of the Free State (UFS). 

Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, led the ceremony in which staff members who have served the institution for 25 years and longer received awards. “Thank you for your long service, loyalty, and steadfast support to the institution throughout its successes, developments, and challenges over the years,” he said at a dinner celebration held at the Bloemfontein Campus on 16 October 2019.

The recipients have contributed a combined total of 1 940 years to make Kovsies the transforming learning space it is today. “This means they have collectively been in service for 23 280 months and have collectively worked an average of 465 600 workdays,” said Prof Petersen, who also expressed gratitude to the 44 colleagues who are retiring this year. 

From a Kovsie student to serving for four decades

Prof Nico Luwes, Head of the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, was also honoured for his 40 years of service along with six other staff members in that year category. 

He joined the university as a first-year student in 1974 and has been HOD from 1980. His family, including his parents, have collected a total of 21 degrees and diplomas from the university. 

For Prof Luwes, the adage “times flies when you are having fun” rings true. When asked what it means to receive the award, his response was: “It fills me with gratitude, thankfulness and joy. I realised that these years were filled with so many wonderful opportunities and challenges to grow as a lecturer, researcher, and theatre artist, that I did not even notice that time was flying by. What an honour to be associated with this wonderful institution – my beloved Kovsies!”

Planting the seeds and reaping the fruits

In addition to having the opportunity to write and direct various new plays and three musicals, Prof Luwes has had an impact on many lives. He managed to obtain over R8million in third-stream grants. These grants supported bursaries for drama students, academic internships, departmental and professional artistic theatre projects, and undertakings by the Free State Theatre Arts – the department’s professional group.

A token of appreciation

In light of both gradual and rapid changes seen in the higher-education sector, a committed and quality talent pool is a priceless asset. The university’s 115 years of a transforming existence owes much to staff members such as those who were honoured with the Recognition of Service Awards.



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