By The Division of Communication and Advancement

In the 1980s, South Africa was cut off from the world politically, through sanctions, and technologically. Yet, from the small town of then Grahamstown, now Makhanda, a team of pioneers managed to send the country’s first email – and Professor Pat Terry, the man who reached the world through this (then) advanced technology, is now part of Rhodes University’s reflective year of celebrations as it marks 120 years in 2024.

Prof Terry formed part of Rhodes University’s next-generation institutional RU120 commercial shoot in February 2024, where he featured in the visual celebration of how far the university has come.

Prof Terry remembers his time at Rhodes University as being formative.

He says the legacy of the institution should be one of education excellence.

“We are not educating people just to live in Grahamstown and surrounding areas – we are educating people to take their place anywhere in the world,” he said.

Listen to Prof Terry below:

Prof Pat Terry on RU legacy

Prof Terry has seen his fair share of changes at the University, having been associated with the institution first as a student, and later as a lecturer, amounting to a lifetime’s worth of experience.

“We had an enormous amount of fun. I was in a department that has students right on the cutting edge – computers were all very new when we started. They’ve left me way behind now,” he said.

Listen to Prof Terry below as he remembers not just this, but also the transition to Democracy, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic:

Prof Pat Terry on student years quality education and changes

As Terry reflected on the RU120 celebration year, he said excellence needed to remain at the heart of Rhodes University’s educational offering.

“There’s a great temptation to drop standard, perhaps, in the modern world, and it’s important to keep them high,” said Terry.

Listen Below as Terry explains how people need to rise above suturing tools like ChatGPT and go deeper than Google…

Prof Pat Terry advice on how to maintain excellence

In reflecting on that first chain of emails to leave South African shores and reach the outside world, Prof Terry says they knew the significance of what they were doing, but perhaps not what the lingering effect would be.

“It was a terribly exciting time – getting those first few messages to work,” he said.

“I was a very small part in that rather big collection of cogwheels but a significant one because I had the first contact with people overseas.”

Listen to Prof Terry below as the speaks of the influence of this on technological advances since:

Prof Pat Terry on the first email sent in the country and leading the way

As a closing message to Rhodes University on the occasion of celebrating 120 years of existence, Prof Terry reflected on a fine institution that he is proud to have served.

“Universities are very precious things,” he said. “Guard the legacy.”

Prof Terry explained that Rhodes University faces several challenges that they will have to fight against.

“Resist the influence of the state or anyone else to just see it as a book-balancing exercise,” he said.

Listen below as Prof Terry reflects on his 60-yer association with Rhodes University – half the life of the institution as a whole:

Prof Pat Terry RU120 message and the need to guard the legacy


Watch Prof Terry’s appearance in the RU120 commercial video here: