Rhodes University Trust USA logo  
News & Events Alumni Accolades Funding Needs Donation History Resources Create a Profile
  Rhodes University
Facts & Figures
Contact Info:
Rhodes University
Trust USA

Donovan Neale-May
Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Get active in South African Business Link to Experts

Sable Accelerator Logo



Open Letter to Old Rhodians

From Ian McGregor
Nov 7,2017

Donovan Neale-May

There is little doubt in my mind that re-branding the University will negatively impact funding. Having spoken to numerous graduates of the 60s and early 70s the fact that the name change is being debated has already distanced many graduates from their university, and stalled any plans they may have had to give to Rhodes.

Two points I'd like to make:
The university I went to was one of the few voices that actively took on the formidable power and ruthlessness of the ruling nationalist government. Rhodes University in the 60s was an outspoken critic of apartheid and as a result the university received lower per student educational grants from the government, student leaders were harassed and some even banned. We were branded "commies” and even traitors. But we were proud of being Rhodians and to be on the right side of history. So in our minds, Rhodes University stood for much more than Cecil John Rhodes. Its reputation was built more on modern politics than identification with the founder and his values. The dark side of Cecil John Rhodes’ legacy was never a factor as like so many industrial barons he operated according to a set of principles and standards in play at the time. He was "old fashioned” by our standards.

So we were proud to be Rhodians, to hold the moral high ground. Through our actions we helped define Rhodes University as liberal, forward thinking, steadfast in the face of Government intimidation and harassment. To now abandon that heritage through a name change seems a betrayal of the contribution Rhodes University and its students made toward helping create the "new South Africa.”

This leads to my second point which is the impact on donations. All the 60s and 70s graduates are entering a life stage where philanthropy becomes a higher priority. They have reached their financial ambitions, want to give back, are thinking about legacy, and so are evaluating their options. Will they give to an institution that is about to forsake its modern history, erase its positive contribution to the new South Africa, all in the name of judgment of an historic figure from over 100 years ago.

The truth is that alumni have been warily eying the name-change discussions and I believe have held back from donating. I know I have and until the mature heads win out over the hot heads, my hands are firmly in my pockets.

Ian McGregor
Rhodes University, 1966-1969


What people are saying on Social Media

Ian Edwards "This is the VERY, VERY, VERY, BEST NEWS of the year being the year of our Lord 2017. As Taki quite correctly stated, sanity has prevailed. As I mentioned previously, all students from the late sixties to the early seventies must have a feeling of exalutation at this wonderful news.”

Mary Todd Vianello "Absolutely wonderful news. I don't agree with what Rhodes did but those were the times. As long as we move on and include everyone."

David Alcock "I am very relieved about this. And I think common sense has prevailed. I am sure there are objections to what the man Cecil John Rhodes stands for but he was a man of his time and we can now enjoy his legacy and try and benefit some of those who have been disadvantaged in the past. Rhodes University has a good name - and I have heard only good things about the university in the UK; and the graduates who get employed prove their worth and make their way successfully in the world. I spent some of my best years at Rhodes University as a student and on the staff of the drama department, a time which formed my thinking and my abilities. I made life-long friends there. So all in all I think this is a good decision.”

Trevor Brodrick "Well done to the voices of reason. Those who are unhappy go elsewhere as we capitalists want to support our university financially and will not if the name changes.”

Camalita Naicker "FFS!! What a shameful decision by Rhodes University Council which has proven once again how uncommitted they are to transformation! I remember in my first year the name change was already being discussed and pushed for by Sasco, The article is false to claim that it was only brought up two years ago, there was always a concern by black students about this name. Now ten years, a whole movement calling for Rhodes to Fall, we are still here."