Professor Andries Jacobus Hendrik Johannes was a member of the Unisa Council from 1946 and Chairman of Unisa’s Senate from 1952. He was Unisa’s first Principal from 1953 to 1955 and Principal and Vice-Chancellor from 1955 to 1956. In 1956, Unisa awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Literature and Philosophy.
By the 1940s, it was evident that the six colleges historically incorporated under Unisa would become independent. The future of Unisa was in doubt, and A.J.H. van der Walt, a professor of History at Potchefstroom University, was appointed to make recommendations. He had earned a doctorate from Kaiser Wilhelm University, Berlin. He had also been the official historian of the Ossewabrandwag, a pro-Nazi organisation, and a loyal member of the Broederbond, a body dedicated to advancing Afrikaner interests. Van der Walt set about reorienting Unisa into a correspondence university by creating the Division of External Studies in 1946. Unisa’s new identity held great appeal for soldiers home from the Second World War who wanted to “learn and earn”. This was no small irony considering the contempt of Van der Walt’s decidedly anti-British Ossewabrandwag for these servicemen who had fought on the side of the British.