01 March 2022 | Story Jóhann Thormählen
Alumni reflection

Alumni from the University of the Free State (UFS) are making their mark locally and internationally.

The UFS is committed to keeping its alumni informed, engaged, and connected with each other and their alma mater.

In 2021, the university hosted international and local events, webinars, reunions, and celebrated many achievements as part of these endeavours.

International connections

COVID-19 made us rethink our identity and citizenship. Expert voices from around the world were invited by Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, to reconsider these views in a webinar series.

In partnership with the South African Chamber of Commerce in the United Kingdom (UK), the ‘Courageous Conversations’ was launched on the theme of ‘The Global Citizen’.

A UK Alumni Connect evening was hosted in London, where Lord Peter Hain was the guest of honour. The UFS met old and new friends and alumni, promoting UFS and South African interests abroad.

Alumni achievements

Seven former Kovsies represented South Africa at the Olympic Games. They were Wayde van Niekerk (400 m), Gerda Steyn (marathon), Nicole Erasmus (women’s hockey), Chris Dry (sevens rugby), Neil Powell (rugby sevens coach), Kate Murray (triathlon coach), and Carla Oberholzer (cycling – women’s road race).

And Louzanne Coetzee became a Paralympic star when she won silver (1 500 m; T11) and bronze (marathon; T12) medals. The Residence Head of Akasia also returned home with a world marathon record in her class and an African record.

The voices of UFS alumni inspired in a unique podcast series. In Voices from the Free State, François van Schalkwyk and Keenan Carelse, both alumni, connected with former Kovsies who reflected on their journeys.

Appointments and celebrations

Prof Petersen plays a major role in strengthening local and international UFS relationships, and his reappointment as Rector and Vice-Chancellor was a big highlight.

“Since his appointment on 1 April 2017 and under his leadership, the UFS has excelled in a number of key areas,” Dr Willem Louw, former Chairperson of the UFS Council, said.

Prof Bonang Mohale was officially inaugurated as the eighth Chancellor of the UFS. Although he took up his term in 2020, the UFS community celebrated his appointment last year.

Dr Russell Ally started his UFS journey as Senior Director: Institutional Advancement.

He joined the UFS after being the executive director of the Development and Alumni Department at the University of Cape Town, and working for the likes of the Ford Foundation and the United Nations.

The second virtual Rector’s Concert was dedicated to first-year students and their accomplishments in trying times.
It featured performances by students, staff, and alumni, including performances by UFS alumna Caroline-Grace, the Odeion String Quartet, OSM Camerata, Dineo Bokala, and many more.

In 2021, the university hosted international and local events, webinars, reunions, and celebrated many achievements as part of connecting with and celebrating alumni.

The UFS also reached out locally to alumni in many different ways

An Alumni Connect event in the Eastern Free State was hosted to build relationships between alumni, staff, and UFS stakeholders, while former Akasia residents from 1996 to 2000 had the opportunity to connect and reminisce with their peers during a reunion weekend.

Health Sciences alumni from the class of 1991 celebrated 30 years since graduation during an MBChB reunion. They paid homage to their formative UFS years and connected with fellow classmates and mentors.

The UFS also collaborated on an event organised for couples who are medical specialists. They were celebrated and shown support, as these doctors battled with the COVID-19 pandemic in the healthcare environment. Most of the attendees were UFS alumni.

Graduates of the then University of the North, known as Uniqwa before it merged with the UFS in 2003, had a Uniqwa Chapter Reunion during a special weekend. 

The UFS is looking forward to another prosperous year ahead. Its aim is to connect with alumni, recognise and celebrate their achievements, and grow the UFS alumni community through quality, impact, and care.

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