On May 20, 2024, Rhodes University’s Registrar’s Division unveiled a riveting exhibition titled “Registrar’s Division: A Glimpse Through the Years” at the Eden Grove Building. This exhibition is a contribution from the Registrar’s Division to Rhodes University’s bidecacentennial celebration, popularly known as RU120. The exhibition showcased the Registrar’s Division’s long-standing existence, achievements, and impact as part of the year-long RU120 celebration, which focuses on past and present excellence, innovation, and community.

The event was prologued with a welcome speech by Professor Adḗle Moodly, the University’s Registrar, who masterfully threaded this component of the University’s history and contextualised the exhibition. In attendance were the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sizwe Mabizela; Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi; Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and Student Affairs, Professor ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela; Director of Communications and Marketing, Dr Luzuko Jacobs to name a few amongst a host of deans and team leaders and staff from the Registrar’s Division and the University at large.

Highlighting the Division’s fundamental significance in the functioning of Rhodes University, Prof Moodly remarked, “The first registrar was appointed in 1905. This indicates the integral role of the registrar and the registrar’s division to a university.” In describing the evolving role of the Registrar, she cited that in earlier times, it had been largely an administrative role “duty-based, obligation-driven and morality-structured.”

Although historically, the focus of the Registrar’s Division has been chiefly on administrative responsibilities, Prof. Moodly highlighted that their contributions have transformed and diversified. The Registrar’s Division now influences policy, academic affairs, and the strategic direction of higher education institutions (HEIs). “Pittinsky puts the Registrar centrally at the intersectionality of administration and academic life, protecting student data and actioning such, supporting student pathways and scaffolding them,” she added.

Closing off her speech, she acknowledged and thanked her dynamic team, who organised the exhibition, extending thanks to “Mrs Desiree Wicks, Ms Suzette Flanagan, Ms Lee-Ann Frazenburg, and Ms Pretty de Bruin, together with Ms Belinda Nomji, Ms Melanie Haarhoff and their respective teams.” She also acknowledged Emeritus Professor Paul Maylam for contributing to the write-up on the Hon Doc and Emeritus Professor Peter Clayton for contributing his student photo.

Dr Luzuko Jacobs, the Communications and Marketing Division Director, took the reins and spoke eloquently about the early stages of the exhibition’s curation and how it was thematically centred around the RU120 vision of reconnecting through the generations and re-imagination. “When Professor Clayton talks about RU120, he refers to it as a platform; he refers to it as a message; he refers to it as a concept all geared towards the unity of purpose behind the multiplicity of stakeholders of this university, within and outside of the university.”

Dr Jacobs admiringly highlighted the importance of the Registrar’s Division even outside of its academic administrative responsibilities. In his speech, he mentioned how the lifelong relationship current students and alumni have with this University starts in the Registrar’s Division. He pointed with great pride to the unique nature of staff in the Division, citing their professionalism and profound empathy. “I do not know, registrar… is that [empathy] a requirement when you employ people?” he asked humorously, highlighting how empathy plays a vital role in the functionality of the Registrar’s Division at the University.

Dr Jacobs passed the mic to Mrs Desiree Wicks, the Manager of the Student Bureau, who then led the exhibition unveiling. She called upon team leaders and staff, who, in a well-synchronised movement, unveiled a collection of posters depicting historical artefacts, such as a time-sequenced photo collage of all the registrars from 1905 till the present. The posters and infographics are time capsules that chronicle key moments in the last 120 years of rich, purple heritage. One can re-live the glorious moments when Honorary Doctorates were awarded to South African giants Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba or see the array of covers to the annual calendars through the years. The exhibition at large denotes reflections on the impact of the change of time and associated achievements of the Registrar’s Division and its integral role in the lives of students, parents, and caregivers.

The exhibition in the Eden Grove Building displayed along the window next to the Student Bureau, is open to all.