"Professor Stachel, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour and pleasure for me to be here in these venerable surroundings, the Great Hall of the Old University, to present a research award that bears my name. In such a place, on such an occasion as this, modesty is the order of the day. It is not the name of the prize that counts but the programme for which it stands.
May I therefore draw your attention first to this painting by Ferdinand Keller and the two statues on either side of it. In the picture we see the entry of Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom. And she is flanked on either side by Fama and the genius of science and scholarship. Ovid says of Fama, the "daughter of hope": "Fame sits aloft, and sees the subject ground / And seas about, and skies above; enquiring all around."
I see this triad of hope, wisdom and the genius of science and scholarship as symbolic of a special kind of tradition. And I would like this prize to be part of that tradition. I should like to help science and scholarship to explore new paths by providing the resources enabling them to do just that.
As an entrepreneur, my view of major talent and special knowledge is that they are scarce resources. The potential they carry in them is a promise. I should like to help redeem that promise, even though indeed, precisely because there are sometimes risks involved and it is often the case that promise can only materialise against considerable odds. So this prize is an investment that seeks to generate impetus in the interests of greater knowledge.
Ladies and gentlemen, over a relatively short space of time a number of generously endowed research awards have recently been launched in Germany with a view to providing scientists and scholars with outstanding international reputations the best possible working conditions at research institutions in this country: "In this way, the best minds can proceed with their research projects free of administrative constraints and establish research groups in Germany with highly qualified younger scientists." Professor Frühwald will, I am sure, recall his own words at the presentation of the first Wolfgang Paul Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
In acting thus, the public sector is doing no more than its duty: creating the requisite foundations for best-possible starting conditions in the international contest for the best minds.
As a private donor, I am prepared to support this public obligation with an initiative of my own. Able as I am to rely on the competence, far-sightedness, impartiality and visionary audacity of the Awarding Committee, I should like to contribute to ensuring that the best minds and the most promising scientific or scholarly ventures can be recognised in good time and given the opportunity to put outstandingly promising projects into practice.
This casts an interesting light on the Prize in terms of research policy as well. It is not a distinction awarded for life achievements, even if the recipients may indeed have achieved a great deal at an early age. Rather, the award is dedicated to scientists and scholars in the middle of their careers whose work shows every indication of producing groundbreaking results.
I am aware that the humanities are not very comfortable with the idea of "cutting-edge research". But they too can point to unusual talents and outstanding achievements in their various disciplines. The award is meant as a distinction for outstanding achievement in any academic research field. Both I myself as a private donor and the Awarding Committee thus demonstrate our steadfast conviction that outstanding commitment to a scientific or scholarly cause can have its rewards.
I shall not anticipate here on Freiherr von Putlitz' speech in appreciation of Professor Stachel's achievements. But I would like to say how happy I am that the Awarding Committee's decision to give the prize to Professor Johanna Stachel confers a major distinction on an internationally renowned scientist who fulfils in such extravagant measure the criteria on which the prize is awarded. Professor Stachel, I congratulate you very warmly.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I close by taking a look at the prospects for the future. Heidelberg has always been a haven of erudition and I believe we are on the threshold of a new era. All my life I have had deep and lasting ties with this region and with the University of Heidelberg in particular. I share these ties with other donors from the Rhine-Neckar area. Let us forget the ongoing dispute about the right parameters for the future of higher education and look instead to the leading models and competitors in the international scientific community.
No one will deny that Heidelberg has always been one of the most prominent institutions of higher learning anywhere in the world. But it is equally undeniable that Heidelberg's position among the front runners in that field could be improved further.
I regard the donation of this research prize as a contribution to the pursuit of that aim in your company.
Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317