Former strategy officer Robert Kettles played a major role in developing and implementing a new strategy for the NWU.


Robert, who retired as strategic officer in the office of the vice-chancellor at the end of 2020, started his long journey with the university in 1987, when he joined the NWU’s predecessor, the University of North West, as a lecturer in the Faculty of Law. Just over a decade later he became dean of the faculty and then, in 2005, was appointed registrar of the NWU’s Mahikeng Campus.


Making a difference in Potchefstroom


Vice-chancellor Prof Dan Kgwadi says one of his wisest decisions in taking the NWU forward, was to bring Robert with him to Potchefstroom when he became vice-chancellor in 2014.


As strategy officer, Robert was intimately involved in developing and implementing a new strategy for the NWU. “The most difficult activity was to move the strategy development process along in conditions of resistance to change,” he says.


On the other hand, finalising the process and seeing tangible results of the implementation of the strategy was the most pleasant aspect of his work as strategy officer.


Looking to the future


Robert says the NWU is an innovative and resilient institution. “No one can doubt the capacity of staff and students alike to overcome obstacles such as the Covid-19 pandemic. One can only look at how the academic year was saved by the remarkable adaptability they showed during the shift online.”


What he will likely miss most about the NWU is its friendly and engaging work environment, says Robert. He is not entirely sure where he and his family will eventually settle down during his retirement, but as he puts it, “we are content to wander where fate takes us”.


When looking back at his long and fruitful career, it is no wonder that this industrious man’s last remark is that although he needs a long rest, he will likely become involved in some work in the future.

When clearing out his office at the end of last year, former strategy officer Robert Kettles found a floppy disk in his desk drawer. This, he says, shows you how long he has been at the university and why it was time to move on.