29 July 2021 | Story Lacea Loader | Photo Supplied
Dr Russell Ally, newly appointed Senior Director of Institutional Advancement.

The Council of the University of the Free State (UFS) has recently approved the appointment of Dr Russell Ally as Senior Director: Institutional Advancement – he assumed duty on 1 July 2021. 

Dr Ally has a BA and Higher Diploma in Education from the University of Cape Town, a BA (Hons) and master’s from Rhodes University, and a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in Great Britain.

Substantial experience in donor and alumni relations, fundraising, and philanthropy

Before joining the UFS, he was the executive director of the Development and Alumni Department at the University of Cape Town (UCT) since August 2013, where he was responsible for institutional advancement, fundraising, and alumni relations. Previously, he was the Ford Foundation’s programme officer for Southern Africa and was responsible for the Governance and Civil Society Programme in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Prior to Ford, he was the country representative and executive director of the South African Office of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation – an endowed, non-profit private grant-making foundation based in Flint, Michigan, in the United States. 

Dr Ally also worked for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as its human rights project manager, overseeing a human rights institutional strengthening project. During this time, Dr Ally served as the national coordinator of the South African Government’s National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NAP), working directly with all the government departments involved in 74023 promoting human rights. He was the main author of the National Action Plan that was submitted to the United Nations in 1998 as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

In 1996, Dr Ally was appointed to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where he served on the Human Rights Violation Committee chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He has taught at secondary school level, at a teacher training college, and was a senior researcher in the African Studies Institute, and senior lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

“Dr Ally has considerable experience in donor and alumni relations, fundraising, and philanthropy. Through his extensive interactions with a variety of large and small institutional and individual donors, he understands the interconnected worlds of philanthropy and grant-making. He is regarded as one of the most knowledgeable, professional, resourceful, and well-networked persons in the domains of donor funding and institutional advancement. I look forward to working with him to further enhance the university’s development and fundraising strategies, to nurture our alumni nationally and internationally, and to keep them active in the affairs of the university,” says Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor. 

Vision for institutional advancement and alumni relations

“I believe that to develop a vision, one needs to listen, understand, absorb, and experience. This way, a vision develops organically and authentically, with buy-in and support – as opposed to something that is imposed from above. As I take up the position, my priority is to listen, learn, understand, and experience. Visions that last are developed at the coalface, not from aerial views. Moreover, I look forward to meeting and getting to know our alumni community, particularly alumni in the Free State.  Universities that thrive usually have very close (and reciprocal) relationships with their surrounding communities,” says Dr Ally.

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