The convocation selected prof JI Marais, a theologian at the Theological Seminary (Kweekskool), as first chancellor, which was a ceremonial position. The men’s residence Huis Marais was later named after him.
As previously determined by government, SU commenced its operations as a university with four faculties on the “determined date” of Tuesday 2 April 1918.
The SU’s first graduation ceremony took place in April with Prof Marais as chancellor – the first time ever for Stellenbosch students to be awarded their qualifications here. [Previously everyone who had finished their studies at the Victoria College (and the college which resulted in the University of Cape Town) were awarded their qualifications by the University of the Cape of Good Hope, precursor to the current Unisa, at a ceremony in Cape Town.]
After Prof Marais’s death in August, Prof PJG de Vos, also a theologian, became chancellor.
Adv HA Fagan was appointed as the first law professor, and law students started their education in 1920.
A lecturer in Education, Prof GG Cillié, became the first rector. As rector he was (as until this day) also chairman of the SU senate. Since April 1918 Prof JJ Smith, a lecturer in languages, was the head of university management and the chairman of the senate. In 1970 the Faculty of Education building was named after Cillié.
A B-degree in education (BEd) was introduced at the Faculty of Education, one of four faculties that existed when the Victoria College became SU in 1918.
Dr WA Joubert, a lecturer in languages since the time of the Victoria College, was appointed as “Fondsen en Propagandaorganiseerder” (funds and propaganda organiser) to for the first time actively raise funds for the university.
A Faculty of Theology was established, bringing the total of SU faculties to six. The Seminary (established in 1859) still existed separately from this faculty, but in close collaboration with SU. In 1963, the Seminary joined this SU faculty in its entirety.
Prof GC Nel became the first botany professor. He convinced SU to make the premises of the current Botanical Garden available for that purpose. Nel was a student of Dr Avie Duthie, who had been conducting pioneering research in this department since 1902. Until her retirement in 1939 she had never become professor apparently because she evoked resentment for being pro-evolution and was outspokenly pro-British. A nature reserve east of the present Engineering complex was named after her.
Dr Lydia van Niekerk became the first ever woman to be appointed as professor, in Dutch at SU. No woman had ever before, even at Victoria College and its precursors, held such a position. The women’s residence Lydia was named after Van Niekerk.
A building for Agriculture in Victoria Street was taken into use, and was later named after Prof JH Neethling, a founding lecturer at the Faculty of Agriculture (now AgriSciences). The JH Neethling Building now accommodates the Department of Viticulture and Oenology, South Africa’s only university studies in this field.
Prof GG Cillié, the first rector, resigned and the position of rector was abolished. As chairman of the senate, Profs SFN Gie (in 1926), W Blommaert (until early 1933) and RW Wilcocks (since mid-1933) occupied the position as SU head of management until the re-introduction of the rector’s position in 1934.
The Faculty of Commerce (now Economic and Management Sciences) was established with CGW Schumann already appointed as lecturer in commercial sciences in 1924. With more than 8 500 students this is the largest SU faculty nowadays. Schumann, later professor and dean, was the founder of the Bureau for Economic Research (1944), and in the eighties a faculty building was named after him.
The Berg- en Toerklub (BTK) was established as student society “to foster interest in and love for nature and the country through mountain and country tours”. The club will be celebrating its 90-year existence in 2018.
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