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GK Chapter Hosts Annual ‘Toasties for Tummies’ Event to Honor Nelson Mandela

August 21, 2018


To honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the Golden Key Chapter at Stellenbosch University (located in South Africa) worked in partnership with Matie Community Service, a non-profit organization of the university, to host the annual Toasties for Tummies event. Toasties for Tummies is an initiative that brings various organizations and stakeholders together to prepare sandwiches for various schools and organizations in and around Stellenbosch to honor Madiba’s legacy in community service.

The event was held over the course of two days (18 and 27 July 2018) in 2 different locations; the TSS on Tygerberg Campus and on the Neelsie decks in the Neelsie Student Centre.  The Tygerberg campus made 1619 sandwiches, while 8842 were made on the Stellenbosch Campus for a total of 10,461 sandwiches created. The remaining 170 loaves on the Stellenbosch Campus were donated to the Disaster Unit along with condiments such as lettuce, mayonnaise and more.

To learn more about this event, click here.


March 28, 2018


The Canadian Golden Key Leadership Summit, also known as CANCON, was held in Montreal this year February 23-25, at the Marriott Chateau Champlain. The summit was co-hosted by the Concordia University and McGill University chapters.

About 125 students, alumni, and chapter advisors came in from across Canada and the U.S. and we even welcomed one member from Australia. For those that arrived early enough on Friday, CANCON started off with a team scavenger hunt around Montreal. Groups headed off with their clue sheet in hand to explore the city and get some great pictures and videos of themselves completing the tasks to earn points for their team.


The opening session was held in the famed Caf’ Conc’ theatre in the hotel that was designed to look like the French theatres of old.


The keynote speaker on Friday night was one of the McGill chapter’s honourary members, renowned human right lawyer and former McGill University professor, Julius Grey.

In an after summit survey, one attendee wrote “I think that Julius Grey shared an important message regarding leadership, especially in terms of being afraid to speak up about ideas that might go against mainstream ideology”.

After the opening session, everyone headed out to a networking social event at Thursday’s Bistro Pub nearby. It was a short walk and fun to see the group out exploring Montreal together. The networking event was held in a section of the restaurant reserved just for our group. A special thanks to the Concordia University chapter for organizing the Friday night networking event.



Saturday morning started off with a wonderful speech from Dr. Karl Moore. Dr. Moore is a professor at McGill University and he discussed introvert and extravert characteristics in leaders. His presentation was a great start to the morning. Karl is quite an extravert himself and had a wonderful way of engaging the audience during his presentation.

One attendee wrote in a post summit survey “I absolutely loved listening to the presentation of Dr. Karl Moore. He was an energetic personality that had the attention of the room the entire hour. I found his content extremely relevant and took an immense amount of notes. I found myself actually understanding more about myself from the qualities and behaviours he addressed with an extrovert.”

We then started up the workshop sessions where attendees could choose from three options for each of the three sessions. A variety of speakers presented throughout the day including a doctor discussing med school, a McGill professor talking about how he almost became an astronaut, an etiquette specialist teaching attendees about business and culinary etiquette, a presenter working with attendees on their personal brand, the McGill chapter advisors discussing learning styles of gifted individuals, a representative from Dans La Rue which is a service organization dedicated to helping the homeless in Montreal, and many more inspiring speakers.

One attendee wrote ““My favourite moment at the 2018 CANCON Montreal Summit was the Dans La Rue workshop. It truly changed my life.”


After the workshop sessions, we all gathered again in the Caf’ Conc’ theatre for a group sharing session. The attendees formed small groups to share ideas about what works at their chapters, challenges they have come across, great service project ideas, and to connect with other chapters to possible collaborate with each other. Each group then sent up a representative up on stage to share what their group had discussed and any recommendations they had for everyone.  It was great to see so many connections made and to hear about all the wonderful events and service initiatives that the chapters are organizing across Canada and beyond.

We moved right into our closing session where Juno Award winning singer Kellylee Evans shared her story of being struck by lightning and what she has learned about herself through her long recovery. She also delighted the crowd by singing two songs on stage that had everyone captivated. She even got the GK members to sing along for part of one of the songs, which was a lot of fun. The closing session was very uplifting and Kellylee was a great speaker.

In a post summit survey, one attendee wrote “Funny, informative, touching, engaging. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to close out the weekend”. Kellylee is an honourary member of the Carleton University GK chapter.

After a little time to get ready, everyone gathered in the hotel lobby to walk over to Crescent Street where we had our big group dinner at Wienstein & Gavino’s. The food was very good and everyone seemed to have a good time chatting with each other and making more GK connections.  After dinner, some people headed out to explore the Montreal nightlife and others headed over to the Montreal Festival of Lights, an outdoor festival that was going on not too far from the summit hotel.


On Sunday morning, a number of chapters met with Golden Key’s Canadian director to go over their plans for the rest of the year. Most people heading off back home on Sunday but few stayed an extra day to further explore the wonderful city of Montreal.

Overall, the summit seemed to have been very well received by the attendees.

Some of the comments from attendees about their overall experience at CANCON:

“I really liked the emphasis on, not only allowing opportunities to network, but teaching members *how* to network. I really liked the session that explained the different ways that introverts and extroverts operate as leaders and by extension how this affects the way that they network. Not only that, the conference allowed for these two types of networking to be explored. The conference was great in giving attendees the opportunity to network both with and without guidance.”

“Being able to connect with other chapter executives and the chapter sharing session were the most useful as they allowed discussion of common chapter issues. This allowed for collaboration between chapters to discuss potential solutions to common problems.

“Excellent session content, enthusiastic participants.  Fun side-activities.”

“I found that I truly understood what Golden Key was really about this weekend. I love it.”

Congratulations to the Concordia and McGill chapter executives for helping to organize a wonderful summit. All your hard work throughout the many months of preparation is very much appreciated.

Looking forward to CANCON 2019!

For more detailed descriptions of the various speakers, please visit The CANCON 2018 information will stay up on the website for a little while.

Golden Key’s Executive Director Brad Rainey Reflects on 40 Years of Golden Key

January 9, 2018

Brad Rainey, Golden Key’s Executive Director, Reflects on What Golden Key Has Become in 40 Years . . . and What Its Future Holds

bradraineyI became involved with Golden Key within a few months of its founding in 1977 and today, I am Executive Director. Even though I devoted 35 years to building a career in real estate, I have always been intimately involved with Golden Key.  For all Golden Key’s 40 years, I have been a champion and a believer.


The Golden Key story began in 1977 but the events that led to my involvement can be traced to the fall of 1973 when I was a freshman at the University of Mississippi. It was then that I met Jim Lewis, who is rightfully recognized as Golden Key’s founder. Jim and I got to be buddies, so much so that we decided to room together our sophomore year. Even though Jim transferred to Georgia State during his sophomore year, we remained friends. And as things turned out, we worked closely together as Golden Key grew and developed.


When he was completing his senior year at Georgia State, Jim saw that there was a need for a new kind of honor society. So he talked to students, got people interested, and ultimately obtained approval from the University to invite students to join the organization that would become Golden Key. The seminal idea was to create an honor society that would extend membership invitations only to top academic achievers – students whose GPA fell within the top 15% at their schools. Jim felt that idea would resonate very well with top students, so invitations were sent out. The response was very good, and the first induction ceremony took place on November 29, 1977 at Georgia State.


Based on that response, Jim saw the he had an idea that was worth pursuing – one that would resonate at other universities as well. A woman named Mary Evans became the first secretary.  And the fledgling staff was soon joined by another student, Steve Pracht, who shared the vision for Golden Key. Things were off to a good start and Golden Key was highly successful wherever it went. Activities increased at such a pace that Steve got excited and worked for a year without taking a paycheck.  Much of the credit for the early success and growth of Golden Key should be assigned to Steve Pracht.  Steve worked full time for the Society for about 25 years and still contributes to its mission.


One reason for Golden Key’s immediate success, I believe, is that it was more ambitious in vision than other honor societies, some of which I was also involved with at the time. One of them was Phi Kappa Phi, really quite a distinguished society. Being tapped to join was, and is, quite an honor. But at that time, Phi Kappa Phi didn’t get too involved with ongoing student activities or programs. Members were nominated by faculty members. There was a very elegant induction dinner, but then not too many more things happened.


Golden Key was conceptualized in a different way. As I noted above, only students who had performed to a high academic standard – the top 15% of students – would be invited to join. That was different from being nominated by a committee that weighed a variety of factors.


Another difference, from the start, was that Golden Key would provide funding to chapters and let the students who led them control what their Chapters would do, and how they would spend their Chapter’s fund. Activities were planned and run by the Chapters, not by the governing organization. That led to some interesting developments. The founders of Golden Key didn’t at first envision it as an organization that would get extensively involved in community service. That activity was actually born in the Chapters. We discovered that when you get a group of high-achieving people together and provide them with funding and other resources, great activities begin to happen almost spontaneously. And when students are given the resources to develop activities that have meaning for them that generates a lot of enthusiasm.


From the early days, Golden Key took a portion of the membership fees received and turned right around and used them to provide scholarships for members in every Chapter. Offering scholarships and financial aid to members is a foundational activity for Golden Key. It remains a central part of our vision for supporting high achievers.


As Golden Key was expanding to new campuses, it got a certain amount of pressure from the administration at Georgia State to incorporate, to file for proper status with the IRS, and to organize a Board of Directors and be properly governed. That was in 1978. I became a Board member, and I have remained involved with Golden Key for its entire 40 years. During those years, I took on many roles, including Chair of the Board, Vice Chair of the Board, Chair of the Finance Committee, Secretary of the Board, and Chair of the Compensation Committee. But I did not actually become an employee of Golden Key until November of 2011. At that time, a search began for a new Executive Director to helm the organization. The Board asked me to watch over the activities of the staff while the search moved forward. But I was then given the opportunity to serve as Executive Director, a position that I gladly accepted. I had spent 35 years in real estate business, and assuming another leadership role at Golden Key was a natural step for me.


I have greatly enjoyed serving as Executive Director, and I am extremely proud that over the last four years alone, Golden Key has awarded millions of dollars to our members in grants and scholarships.  There have been many other activities that have made me especially proud. Over the last few years, we have placed additional emphasis on providing members with opportunities to have international experiences. We’ve been providing travel grants that have helped Golden Key members travel to countries outside their own regions to attend conferences. For example, we are providing travel grants to attend the 6 Leadership Summits that we will host in 2018 for student members in the United States, Canada, South Africa and Australia. As it has been in the past, we are deeply committed to programs that give students the opportunity to study abroad – international experience.  Golden Key is an international society and most of the credit for our presence outside of the United States is due to Mark Herndon who is currently serving the Society as Vice President – International.


I have had the opportunity to meet outstanding students from all over the world. As you know, we have operations in countries that include Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, and more. I am always impressed at the caliber of our members, just incredibly moved by the stories of many of the people I have met. One is Kenechukwu Ikebuaku, a young man from Nigeria whom I first met at a conference in Australia. Thanks to his hard work and with the support of Golden Key, he first became an outstanding student. He is now in the process of launching Nigel International, an organization whose mission is to expand opportunities for young people in Africa. He is now a graduate student at the University of Texas and he is working with Onesimus Technologies, a company that helps Nigerian youth start and run their businesses. Kene is an inspiration. And a few months ago, I got to know another Golden Key member named Omarwalid Noorazada, an outstanding student and Fulbright Scholar who has traveled all over the world as a Golden Key Chapter President. It is immensely rewarding for me to be involved with so many great students who are performing at such a high level and doing outstanding things around the world.


Where do I see Golden Key going in the future? In the world environment today, I think that it is incumbent on the Honor Society to find ways to better deliver new and more extensive benefits to our members, so they become more empowered.


And the core benefits of Golden Key will remain unchanged. Members know they are part of a quality organization that will help them advance their careers, make valuable connections, and enjoy unequaled opportunities to grow and make contributions to their communities and the world.



Golden Key International Honour Society Celebrates its Fortieth Anniversary

December 7, 2017


Back in 1977, a group of students had a vision for a new kind of campus organization – an honor society that would empower high–achieving students to become future world leaders. As soon as discussions began, Golden Key began to evolve into the organization that it has become today. The philosophy was floated that students become leaders by serving others, by taking responsible roles in campus organizations, and by joining groups of like-minded, community–minded students.

The importance of scholarships and awards to help high–potential students fulfill their promise was recognized. The students drafted a constitution and bylaws and incorporated Golden Key National Honor Society as a nonprofit corporation. On November 29, 1977, more than 300 students from all fields of study, races, religions and life experiences were inducted into the first Golden Key chapter at Georgia State University.

In the earliest days of Golden Key’s development, the Board of Directors of the Society consisted primarily of student founding members. Serving at that time were James W. Lewis, Michael MacLauchlan, James G. Lewis, Brad Rainey and Alfred Simon. Brad Rainey, who serves as Golden Key’s Executive Director today, recalls that while big ideas were being discussed, something else was happening too – an organization was being born where highly ethical practices, transparency and commitment to students were already palpable. He also says that those same values still are deeply felt within the organization.

That perception is more than one leader’s opinion. It has been borne out in milestones that marked Golden Key’s 40 years of evolution . . .

Students saw Golden Key’s promise at once, and within a few months of that initial induction ceremony in November 1977, efforts began to open new chapters. By the end of 1978, six Golden Key chapters had been established at the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, and other campuses. Chapters began to engage in service projects in the communities where they were located. The Society hired its first staff people and opened its first office to organize programs of foreign study for members.

Then in 1982, the first annual national Golden Key Conference was held in Atlanta. Members connected, shared service opportunities, and the founding values of Golden Key began to resonate on a deeper level. The value of bringing together members was clear and one year later, the first annual Golden Key Regional Conference took place at Michigan State.

The value of offering financial assistance to students began to take life. By 1984, Golden Key had awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to members. In that same year, the 50th Golden Key chapter opened at San Diego State University.

In 1985, Golden Key was able to purchase a building to house its national headquarters and a remarkable period of growth began. Corporate sponsors NCR and Peat Marwick came on board and fostered continuing growth.

In 1993, Golden Key opened chapters in Australia. New chapters were established in Malaysia, Canada and other countries and in 2000, the Society changed its name to Golden Key International Honour Society.

Success has followed success. By 2010, Golden Key reached the milestone of having 2 million members. And by 2011, the Society was annually awarding more than $1 million in scholarships to members.


Golden Key Today  

Today, Golden Key International Honour Society is a widely recognized and highly regarded collegiate honor society that prides itself on operating with integrity and transparency at over 400 colleges and universities worldwide.

Golden Key maintains offices in Australia, South Africa and the United States. Its international headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia

Golden Key International Honour Society is governed by an independently elected Board of Directors comprised of highly regarded professionals from universities, businesses and not for profits. These voluntary board members receive no compensation and are legally responsible for ensuring that the Society operates within its charter and in accordance with the various laws and regulations within the jurisdictions where Golden Key operates.

As its 40th year begins, almost 2.5 million high achieving students have joined Golden Key.  Many members are Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars. Two Governor Generals of Australia, a former Canadian Prime Minister, astronauts, university presidents and other notables such as Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, Bill Ford and Elie Wiesel have proudly accepted honorary membership into the Society.

“We are not resting on our accomplishments,” says Executive Director Brad Rainey. And what accomplishments they are – 40 years’ worth.

Rainey adds, “Golden Key’s values, mission, history, accomplishments, and students have built a robust platform for a bright future of supporting students as Golden Key helps to create the world leaders of the future.”


Are you eligible? Click here to find out!

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal Recognizes Golden Key on its 40th Anniversary

November 29, 2017

On our 40th Anniversary, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal gave us the gift of commending our members and recognizing the Society.

Thank you to our entire GK family for your hard work and dedication to Golden Key.

Proclamation Photo

Click here to see the scanned Proclamation! 

Here’s to the next 40 years!

Adnan Bokhari: Humanitarian, Activist, Golden Key Supporter

November 27, 2017

Adnan Bokhari has been Chairman of Golden Key’s Board of Directors since August 2016. He is also Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Prosperity Now, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing economic inequality in the United States.

Adnan now resides with his family just outside Washington, DC, and loves life there. Yet he began his life far from our nation’s capital. His story is inspiring, as you will learn in these excerpts from a recent conversation we enjoyed with him.

Adnan Bokhari headshot

What can you tell us about your childhood?

Adnan Bokhari: I grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, where I attended a very prestigious school, Aitchison College, from grade one all the way through secondary school. The school was founded in 1886 by Sir Charles Aitchison, who was the British Governor of the Punjab, to educate the children of the higher classes.


But I sense from your tone of voice that you were not from one of those privileged families?

Adnan Bokhari: My father came from very meager circumstances, yet he was able to become a lawyer and then appointed judge of the Punjab high court by the then Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. And to be a judge in Pakistan was really something.

As a young man, he had a great mathematical mind. When he was in tenth grade, he took state exams in mathematics and placed third among all students at the state level. One of his professors, after learning that, wanted to put him to work grading papers that had been submitted for masters-level exams in mathematics. But my dad knew that he did not want to be a mathematician. He wanted to be a lawyer.

So that is what he worked hard to achieve. He studied long hours and spent a lot of time at the local library. After dark, he would sit under a lamppost and study there. He would study for 12 or 14 hours a day. He became a very good and successful lawyer, with his own practice. I remember him working six days a week

So that’s what I grew up watching (meaning hard work). And today, what I teach others and say to my children is that everybody is going to have different abilities. Everyone is going to have a different strategy for success, and everybody can achieve different things academically. But underneath all of that is the question, “Are you willing to work hard or not?”

For me, working long hours has been a key to success. A few years back when I was in public accounting, I sent an email to my managing partner at 9:00 p.m. and he replied, “Are you still in the office?”

I replied and said, “I have read that all successful people work at least 12 hours a day. I figured if I work 13, I’ll get there faster.”


What a story. When did you come to the United States?

Adnan Bokhari: I came in 1994, when I was just shy of 16 years old. It was my first international travel, and traveling by myself was quite fascinating and also frightening. My older brother, who is seven years older than I, was already here, living in Virginia. I moved in with him. There was just enough space in his room for two small beds, and that’s where I lived.


And did you attend university after you got here?

Adnan Bokhari: I did. I went to Strayer College, which is now Strayer University. I went there because they offered me the chance to take my visitor visa and use it to open the way to a student visa. So that was the opportunity there.

I am pretty sure I was the youngest student at Strayer. I was 16 years old.


What did you study?

Adnan Bokhari: I started with economics, just because I was 16 years old and didn’t know anything. My brother was doing an undergrad degree in economics, so I started studying economics too, and I got my Associates degree.

I then shifted to accounting and earned a bachelor’s degree in that field, because that’s where the jobs were in the D.C. area at the time, around year 2000. My Strayer education prepared me to take the CPA exam. I was able to pass the exam and I went into public accounting. In the firm, I continued to work closely with nonprofits and after working there for seven years, I moved to Prosperity Now (then Corporation for Enterprise Development) as its Chief Financial Officer. I’ve been with them since 2011, and two years ago, my role was expanded to Chief Operating Officer. So I’ve spent the last 17 years or so working in the nonprofit sector. My focus has been on building financial resiliency in nonprofits and creating operational excellence.


At what point did you first encounter Golden Key?

Adnan Bokhari: I got involved in Golden Key as a member of the Finance Committee, not yet a board member. I was introduced by Jerry Sullivan, who was the Executive Director of the American Association of College-Age Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), an accounting client of mine. He thought that given my expertise in nonprofit finance, I could be of value to Golden Key.

And as I thought about Golden Key members I was reminded about my father. As I said earlier, he had potential and was willing to work hard. I thought about people who at different times had opened different doors and helped him. In his early years, someone helped him get admitted to grade school by giving him a chance to retake a test. Another person helped pay for part of his law school tuition, without being asked. These “door openers” helped him climb the economic ladder from extreme poverty and even eventually to send all four of his children to a school where Prime Ministers and their children go.

So in Golden Key, I saw an opportunity to open doors for students.

As we know, there is a widening opportunity and income gap not just in the United States, but globally. I care deeply about this issue because of my background. And Golden Key opens doors for the top 15 percent of students in their colleges. When I was a student at Strayer, I did not have Golden Key at my side helping me. But Golden Key has helped me connect with thousands of talented students. We have cumulatively more than two million members and every year, more than 30,000 to 40,000 new members join. That’s a lot of opportunity to make a difference.


There are leadership opportunities within the Golden Key campus chapters?

Adnan Bokhari: Yes, but not just on campus. Golden Key is committed to developing the next generation of leaders. We have entire international and regional summit agendas dedicated to leadership development.  Golden Key members learn critical skills while in college and have a leg up when they enter the workforce.


So it is safe to assume that you would recommend Golden Key to students who qualify for membership, correct?

Adnan Bokhari: There are many organizations that are trying to do good work on behalf of students, but Golden Key stands out in a few important ways. One is that it’s the largest honor society. The other is its higher educational standard.

In my own student years, I didn’t have the luxury of being a full-time student. I was working full time while I was taking courses. At Golden Key, we allocate a portion of our budget for scholarships, about half a million dollars every year, to help ease the financial burden of college. Golden Key also offers leadership opportunities to all our student members and opportunities to give back to the community.

So my question to students would be, “Why wouldn’t you join Golden Key?” Think about the opportunity cost. There’s no better alternative for the time that you spend while you are in college.

Are you eligible to join Golden Key?

Golden Key Leader Profile: Dr. Derek Swemmer, Lifelong Advocate for Students and Golden Key

November 20, 2017

We are pleased to present this profile of Dr. Derek Swemmer, a leader in education, in the life of students, in Golden Key . . . and in the public life of his homeland, South Africa.

We know you will enjoy and benefit from these excerpts of a recent exchange between him and Golden Key.


Dr. Derek Swemmer


Can you tell us about your history as a leader of Golden Key?

Derek Swemmer: I became an honorary member of Golden Key in 2002, when the University of the Witwatersrand was granted a charter for a Golden Key chapter, because I had agreed to become a volunteer co-advisor to the chapter. The principal adviser was the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, and I then served as the Registrar. I later succeeded the DVC as the principal adviser. I served GK in this capacity at Wits until late 2010, and then became the co-advisor at the University of the Free State. I served as an adviser for 15 years. In both 2006 and 2008 I was recognized as Chapter Adviser of the year in South Africa.

In 2006 I accepted nomination and was duly elected to serve as a member of the Golden Key Board. My international perspectives probably added value and consequently led to my re-election for three full terms – a total of 10 years, which terminated in 2016. I was awarded the Golden Key International Leadership Council President’s Award, which annually recognizes one individual’s contribution to the GK Honour Society, in 2009.

I held office also as a member of the Golden Key Foundation Board for a period of three years as a nominee of the Golden Key Board. In 2015/2016, I served for a single year as the Chairperson of the Golden Key Foundation Board. I was elected chairperson of the Golden Key Board for the two-year term of office between 2013 and 2015. The vice-chairperson during this period Dr. Anita Miller and I swapped roles in our final year of service to the GK Board.


Can you tell us about where you grew up?

Derek Swemmer: I was born in Pretoria in 1951. I lived there until my mid-30s. The city is the administrative capital of South Africa and at that time, Afrikaner nationalism was at its peak. At that time the country had two official languages, namely English and Afrikaans. My home language is English but at the time the language of transaction and communication was predominantly through the medium of Afrikaans. Today South Africa has 11 official languages, but I am fluent in only two.

Pretoria, South Africa635018

Pretoria today


How did your own academic career unfold?

Derek Swemmer: I began my university career as a lecturer of English language and literature working for five years at the University of Pretoria and another five years at the University of South Africa. I then moved into administration at the University of the Witwatersrand.

I first retired from the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010), after 25 years of service – 16 years of which were in the position of University Registrar (and a member of the University’s Executive team). I then became the Registrar of the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) for 4 years.  I retired again, this time for five months.

On April Fools’ Day, 1 April 2015, I was appointed as the CEO of the FEDSAS Institute for Public School Governance.  This is a 5/8ths role.  The balance of my time is taken up as a higher education consultant.  In the past two years I have undertaken consultancy projects for eight Southern African universities (public and private).

The role of Registrar is something of a mix between a company secretary and an executive administrator. It was particularly challenging at Wits as throughout the second half of the 20th Century the University was opposed to the racially discriminatory policies of the political party in power.  Our campus was often a hot-bed of protest.  When the miracle hand-over of power to the majority of the population happened, the adoption of a progressive constitution that created the first truly democratic government led to massive legislative reform.

Universities had to adapt to a new legislative framework and comply with over 140 Acts of Parliament – 80% of which were promulgated between 1995 and 2010. It was a dynamic period for those who served as university registrars.


Where do you live now?

Derek Swemmer: I work from home which is situated in a small piece of paradise in a suburb called Kloof in Durban, South Africa – sub-tropical climate.  View from our kitchen…

Swemmer View

The view from Swemmer’s kitchen in South Africa


Are you especially involved now with any of Golden Key’s current activities?

Derek Swemmer: I continue to help when I am called upon to do so. On the weekend of 29 September to 1 October 2017, I attended the South African GK regional summit, where I ran a hands-on workshop on leadership for the participants. In August this year, the regional director of GK South Africa and I visited four universities in Botswana. This was part of an exploratory investigation to determine whether there was interest in starting Golden Key chapters, at the major public university and at three private universities. Our report will in due course serve before the board for its decision.

Earlier in the year I spent 40 minutes on the phone to a consultant who was retained to explore future strategies for GK.  It was a meaningful interaction and she more than stated that she had valued the insights we shared.

I occasionally serve as a sounding board for the SA Regional Director.


And you are active in other service initiatives in South Africa as well?

Derek Swemmer: My involvement over many years in service activities has always been a major part of my life. The value systems that underpin in particular Scouts South Africa and the Girl Guides South Africa, together with my exposure to the four-way test of Rotary International, all contributed to the positive perception that I hold about the policy-driven value-based Golden Key society.

My current role in helping to uplift public school governance involves inter alia my emphasising the importance of having values that have been widely explored and then adopted as the underpinning ethos for schools. The GK pillars similarly provide the sort of foundation that young people need. By acting as a non-directive mentor in the role of chapter adviser, I found profound satisfaction from witnessing the dedication and service orientation of the new generation of leaders that become involved in Golden Key.



Can you share any stories about students who have been helped by Golden Key?

Derek Swemmer: Let me share one experience. The third president of the Wits GK Chapter was Nhlanhla “Fats” Dlamini, an intelligent, sophisticated and inspirational leader, who had been head prefect at his secondary school and who was elected from the previously disadvantaged majority group of our students. He, as did all of the presidents who served in that office in our chapter, succeeded in leading the chapter to the attainment of the sought-after Gold Standard. Two years after he graduated, he was recruited by McKinsey’s and began what I’m sure will become a stellar career. Such is his enthusiasm for GK that he managed to persuade the partners in the Johannesburg branch to become a GK sponsor, thereby enabling other young people who join GK to become potential recipients of scholarships.


How would you describe the largest benefits of being a Golden Key member? 

Like any organisation the more you get involved the more you gain. There is no doubt that involvement in the chapter committees leads to special experiences and opens up processes of thought and learning that would otherwise not be possible in an ordinary academic programme. Experiences like the service activities offered through GK leave an indelible mark on the thinking of the bright young people that join.

Two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans GK held an international summit there. Our service project was to help the elderly whose houses had been completely flooded and who had lost all of their possessions in the flooding. When they were forced to go back to their old homes which had been lifted off of their foundations and shifted by 5 to 15° by the power of the water, they were too poor to be able to recreate what they had lost. The GK participants at that summit descended upon the area in various working groups. The 600 plus students and a small number of advisers restored overgrown gardens, carried out essential maintenance inside houses, painted and rebuilt damaged parts of homes, but above all through their enthusiasm and warmth gave those left in this area a new sense of hope.


Would you encourage students to join Golden Key? What do you believe they can gain from membership?

Derek Swemmer: Yes. Membership entitles them to include the fact that they are in the top 15% of performing students in the range of degrees for which they are registered. This marks them out as potentially high performing future employees. In addition, their involvement in the activities of the GK chapters helps to imbue in them the ethos of service, the importance of leadership, and the beauty of enriching their minds through their academic excellence. There are few organisations that provide all three of these opportunities even as they network with the future leaders of the world.


Golden Key inspires people to stretch and to achieve more than they previously believed were possible. There is real joy in serving others and doing so with integrity and commitment.


Are you eligible to join Golden Key?