Professor Moutlana with Professor van der Bank, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Human Sciences
Anne Naidu and Azande Ralephenya
The Vaal University of Technology staff and students bid their farewells to Professor Irene Moutlana, who has officially retired as the Vice-Chancellor & Principal of VUT after serving two successful terms over a period of 10 years. The buzz words and common thread in conversations and speeches on Friday 2 June at the Farewell function of Professor Irene Moutlana were courageous, visionary and exemplary leadership style. A farewell session held at the Desmond Tutu Great Hall on Friday afternoon left many consumed with emotions as staff shared their stories and experiences of working with Prof Moutlana and how she’s managed to positively impact each individual’s life that’s had the honour of working with her.
An intimate farewell gala dinner was hosted later, on Friday evening at Lords Signature Hotel, with close colleagues, friends and family in attendance.
The First Female Vice-Chancellor of Vaal University of Technology, recognised internationally for her contribution to higher education on the world stage, receiving many accolades, Prof Irene is a woman of vigour, valour and endurance. Firm belief and commitment is what helped her become the leader she is today. It’s going to be very difficult to fill her void, for many academics that followed in her footsteps.
In his welcoming speech, Cllr Simon Mofokeng, Chairperson of the VUT Council said, “We are here to celebrate a decade of sheer leadership and remarkable commitment by Prof Moutlana, yours is a story which proves that the future of the world is in our class rooms and in our lecture rooms. Today your peers sing your praises, bow to your presence and shower you with well wishes for your amazing journey in the trenches of education. You have taken the road less travelled, the road which has taken you to the highest echelons where you continued to thrive even in the most turbulent of times.” He praised her for her leadership and management skills, noting that even through turbulent times such as #feesmustfall protest, which severely affected many universities across the country, she kept calm, was strategic and showed true leadership, which is the why VUT was not as severely affected compared to other universities.
Professor Gordon Zide, VUT’s newly appointed Vice-Chancellor and Principal and good friend to Prof Moutlana, proudly recounts his personal and working relationship with Prof Moutlana, dating back to their days as students at University of Fort Hare, “what a singer and dancer she was, what a singer and a dancer she is,” he jokingly said. “When Professor Irene joined the institution as its 5th Vice Chancellor and Principle in 2007, little did we know that today we will be bidding her farewell. However, it’s always good and encouraging to say good things about a person in her presence.”
Prof Zide admitted that stepping into the shoes of Prof Moutlana is not going to be an easy task – however- he fully trusts the team that she’s left him with. Earlier on that day, he announced that after a meeting with the Executive Management Council, VUT has awarded Prof Moutlana with the status of Professor Emeritus. This simply means that she will continue being a member of the VUT and continue to have access to the institution.
Prof Moutlana’s daughter, Katlego Moutlana, shared a heart-warming speech and words of appreciation on behalf of her siblings. Thanking the VUT community for continuous support, protecting and honouring her mother. “Education has been your life’s work, you’ve dedicated yourself to a life of public service, we look at your accomplishments and find it hard to believe that you’re our mother – you’ve shown us what a strong work ethic can do and you’ve shown us it’s possible to shatter the glass ceiling and beat patriarchy at its very own game. You’ve taught us that when facing adversity, stay true to who you are, have courage and see it through,” she said.
VUT Choir with Professor Irene Moutlana
After an evening of entertainment from the VUT Choir, “the undiluted voices of the Vaal” as Prof Moutlana affectionately calls them, speeches from colleagues and family, Prof Moutlana walked onto the podium overwhelmed with emotion. “People always ask me “How did you make it thus far”? My answer after much self-examination is: “My personal success is” having those who know me best respect me most and finishing well. Hopefully tonight I can comfortably lay claim to this personal “mantra”, she said.
Joyous moment at the farewell gala dinner of Professor Irene Moutlana
Prof Moutlana thanked her VUT family for their support and making her journey at VUT a memorable and worthwhile experience, she said that they’ve taught her how to be a person through the concept of Ubuntu.
This very special, God-fearing woman, mother and leader will definitely be missed by the VUT community and everyone’s lives she touched. The lessons learned from her leadership will still continue to be an exemplary example for many years to come.