Derek K. Swemmer has a BA, BA Hons and an MA from the University of Pretoria and a D Litt et Phil from Unisa. He completed his Teaching diploma (TTHD) at JCE. He taught English at Christ's Hospital, a famous public school in England, for 1 year before spending 5 years on the academic staff of each of the departments of English at the University of Pretoria and Unisa. His administrative career at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) commenced in 1985. He progressed through various positions and became the Registrar in 1995 and part of the executive team. He retired on 30 September after 25 years of service to Wits. On 1 October 2010 he took office in the executive team as the Registrar of the University of the Free State.
Since 2006 he has been commissioned to serve on 4 government task groups, 2 higher education national working groups, 2 university Quality Assurance Audit panels, and is currently on the expert group working on the creation of 2 new public universities in South Africa. He has run strategic planning workshops for Botho College and the Botswana Association of Private Tertiary Education Providers.
He was a Council member and Honorary Secretary of the English Academy of Southern Africa for 7 years. He is the editor or co-author and co-editor of over 20 books and training manuals. One of these is co-authored, The New Wordpower: the South African Handbook of Grammar, Style and Usage, a tertiary level reference work that was published first in 1989 (reprinted 5 times), then published as a new edition in 1996 (and reprinted 7 times to date).
As a parent, he served for 10 years on the Governing Bodies of both Bryneven Primary School and Bryanston High School, chairing both of them, and served for 5 years on the Johannesburg North School Board.
In 1997 he helped found the International Education Association of South Africa and was its Honorary Treasurer until 2010. He played a cardinal role in creating the SA public universities’ Registrars Imbizo (forum). He served as a volunteer in the Scout Association for 45 years and in 2011 completed 9 years on the national Finance Committee of SA’s Girl Guide Association.
He has run over 200 strategic planning, leadership and cultural sensitivity courses for many organizations.
As Chapter Adviser of the Wits Golden Key International Honour Society Chapter from 2001 to 2010, he was recognized as the South African Adviser of the year in 2006 and again in 2008. He was appointed to the Atlanta-based Board of Directors of Golden Key in 2006 and is currently serving a second three-year term. He was elected as Chairman of the Golden Key Board of Directors took office on 30 July 2012. In 2009, he was awarded the International Leadership Council President’s Award which recognizes one individual’s contribution to Golden Key world-wide.
He has been a public guest speaker over the past 30 years at over 100 events in South Africa and internationally.