Rhodes University mourns the loss of Senior Alumni Relations Officer, Terryl Mc Carthy

Terryl at one of the many Distinguished Old Rhodian Awards ceremonies she organised over the years
Terryl at one of the many Distinguished Old Rhodian Awards ceremonies she organised over the years

Long-serving Alumni Relations Officer, Terryl Mc Carthy (52), died suddenly at her home in Makhanda/Grahamstown on Saturday 16 November. She leaves behind her husband, Kevin, and two children, Tayla and Ryan, an Honours student at Rhodes University.

Visibly distraught colleagues at the Division for Communication and Advancement (DCA), where Terryl worked spoke highly of Terryl as a “loving mother to her family and an inspirational, indefatigable colleague who will be sorely missed”.

Terryl began her journey at the University in 2009, after moving to Makhanda from Port Alfred.

She launched herself into numerous affinity and fundraising projects with great fervor and enthusiasm. She was central in the communication between the University and its alumni across the world.

At the time of her passing, she was coordinating the last of the annual reunions of the University alumni in Johannesburg. Two reunions in Durban and in Cape Town took place earlier. She had also started preparations for the 70th meeting of Convocation in 2020.

She was involved in a renewed Bequest Drive and an Institutional Ambassadors Programme into which she roped in the top leadership of the University, including its Chancellor, retired judge Lex Mpati, and various Board Members.

Among the numerous fundraising efforts in which she was involved to mobilise financial resources for students were the sanitary towel drives, toiletry drives, pocket money collections, book collections and Give5’s FireWalk - a first at any university in South Africa.

For Terryl, “walking on hot coals is symbolic of the giving spirit at Rhodes University. It is about being uncomfortable. It brings awareness that there are many students who feel like this [uncomfortable] everyday of their lives and it puts you in their shoes – in that mindset.”

Terryl’s name at the University is synonymous with the Purple Thursdays – an established culture among Old Rhodians and Rhodents (undergraduate Rhodes University students) to wear purple – the dominant Rhodes University brand colour – on Thursdays.

She assisted with the change of the Old Rhodian Award trophy, to make it more symbolic of Rhodes University’s inclusivity and transformation. An aloe replaced the historical figure of a man riding a horse. Terryl helped compile the beautiful meaning of the plant’s symbolism within the context of the University’s values.

“Her blood was purple. She gave her all in the service of Rhodes University. She was, without doubt, a true embodiment of the meaning of the Rhodian spirit as we know it.” DCA Director, Luzuko Jacobs, said in an emotional tribute.

Long-time friend and colleague, Desiree Wicks, shared the excitement that Terryl had about her projects and how they seemed to be going. “It is so sad that she will not see some of them come to fruition,” she said.

Many of her colleagues described Terryl as a “relatively reserved person” who, once you got to know her, would “spoil you with her lovely sense of humour”.

Sheer numbers of Rhodes University staff and students who came to pay homage at the Alumni House from the start of the week following Terryl’s death is a good indicator of how deeply Terryl was loved at the University. The Students Representative Council president, Samkelo Mngadi, led his executive to the ‘site of mourning’ on Tuesday.

The DCA and certainly the entire Rhodes University family including staff, alumni and students, have lost a very dear and treasured part of their collective being.

We miss you, Terryl. We will, always. You will live on in our hearts and memories for many years to come, and the empty space you have left will echo in our shared love for you into eternity.

Lala ngoxolo nkosazana. Rus in vrede. Rest in peace.


To see Terryl’s tribute video, please click here.