At a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Old University on 26 June 2003, the status of honorary senator of the University of Heidelberg was conferred on Professor Dr. Jürgen Strube, chairman of the supervisory council of the BASF company. Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff said that the ceremony was to be "an appreciation of the outstanding services Professor Strube has done the University over a long period of years." Vice-rector Prof. Dr. Karheinz Meier gave a speech in honour of the new senator in the course of the proceedings.
In his welcoming address, Prof. Hommelhoff emphasised that with this latest distinction "the University of Heidelberg is making a declaration of allegiance. For all its efforts to be as international in its outlook as possible, its roots are here in the Palatinate or, to be politically correct, in the Rhine-Neckar Triangle and it is fully and gratefully aware of the many links it has with companies in the region, notably with the largest company of them all." Hommelhoff went on to remark that he was not thinking of external funds alone, the money provided by business enterprises for research purposes. "No, the main thing is something much less tangible: the networks that exist between the University and the world of business."
Hommelhoff: "Numerous and advantageous for both sides are the research links between Heidelberg and Ludwigshafen, especially the major benefits that an upcoming generation of scientists has from cooperation with the practical side of things." As an example, he mentioned the initiative to establish a study forum for outstanding chemistry students. Among the companies selected to take part in this venture "BASF is of course right out there in front."
Hommelhoff outlined new networks in research and teaching and the influence of practitioners in their conception: "What we have in mind is a major centre involving medical experts, biologists, jurists, theologians, philosophers and economists." This, said Hommelhoff, was something where the University could draw on its strengths. "But in the running of the University we also intend to draw upon the knowledge and experience amassed by the business world especially regional companies." The rich rewards accruing to the administrative bodies and the hospitals of the University from collaboration with representatives of the business world, he said, have encouraged the University "to pursue this path systematically and determinedly."
Vice-Rector Prof. Meier: Speech in Honour of Senator Prof. Dr. J. Strube
"In 1856 the 18-year-old London student William Perkin made a discovery. His initial intent had been to synthesise quinine, an antipyretic, by means of the oxidation of aniline. What he came up with was a dark violet-coloured mass from which he was able to isolate a beautiful violet dye, which he called mauveine. This dye was the first artificial aniline dye. Silk dyers in Lyon made a new fashionable colour from it (mauve) and it has retained its popularity to this day" (vice-rector Prof. Meier).
Some 30 years before this discovery, Friedrich Engelhorn was born in Mannheim. Prof. Meier described him as having two very different gifts: commercial acumen and a feeling for the scientific and technological innovations of the age. As early as 1848 he was in charge of a successful lighting-gas factory. One problem he was confronted with was the annoying presence of a waste product attendant on the production of lighting-gas: aniline. "Engelhorn procured the services of chemist Carl Clemm and the two of them founded a little factory in Mannheim in 1861 (with the financial aid of two investors) in which he produced the dye mentioned earlier. From this factory the Badische Anilin- und Sodafabrik (BASF) evolved in 1865. The rest is history." Prof. Meier went on to characterise the success story of BASF as a "chemical compound" made up of three components: scientific instinct, commercial acumen and the courage to support change. Today, he said, Prof. Strube is chairman of the supervisory board of BASF, the biggest chemical company in the world, and above and beyond that connected with the University of Heidelberg by a wide range of activities.
"After his doctorate in law in 1969, Professor Strube joined the financial division of BASF and from 1970 on took on a variety of leading posts abroad, first in Antwerp, then in Brazil and finally, as of 1985, on the board of directors in the United States with special responsibility for the North American region. From 1988 Professor Srube was on the board of directors at the Ludwigshafen site, and its chairman from 1990. In this responsible position he not only assured the position of BASF in a period of headlong structural change affecting the global economy, but also displayed exemplary commitment to scientific and social matters extending beyond the company itself" (vice-rector Prof. Meier).
"This makes Professor Strube both a prime mover and a guarantor of a corporate philosophy that insists that entrepreneurs and managers should have good personal and institutional relations with the academic world." Indicative of this is his position as vice-chairman of the Association of Donors for the Humanities and Sciences in Germany. Furthermore, he has always accorded major significance to close contacts between the research departments of BASF and the scientific departments of the regional universities above all, the chemical institutes at the University of Heidelberg.
"Numerous cooperative ventures, personal commitment on the part of BASF colleagues in the teaching of chemistry, a broad range of excursions, courses and seminars for Heidelberg's chemistry students and staff as tokens of an intensive concern for upcoming generations of scientists all these things reflect the unflagging support for the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Heidelberg provided by the central bodies of BASF, by the board of directors and, more than anyone else, by Professor Strube as its long-standing chairman."
Prof. Meier went on to mention further instances of active commitment displayed in the more recent past by Prof. Strube, namely his support of the Georg Wittig Lectureship and his role in the organisation of the Heidelberg Forum of Molecular Catalysis and the joint donation of the BASF Catalysis Award. "The Forum is an international event organised jointly by the University, the research division of BASF and the new collaborative postgraduate research project at the Faculty of Chemistry in Heidelberg. These are very much to the benefit of the Faculty and the University, and Professor Strube has had a major hand in them all."
Another thing Professor Strube has done is to carry on a tradition established by his predecessors as chairman of the board of directors at BASF. "Like Prof. Timm and Prof. Seefelder before him, he has served the University of Heidelberg as President of the University Society. This is perhaps not quite so apparent a connection as the links between BASF and the Faculty of Chemistry. The University Society primarily supports research in the humanities and occupies itself with more general, superordinate matters concerning the University. In this field Prof. Strube has been especially notable for his lasting and successful commitment."
"Let me come back to the three components I mentioned at the outset," said Prof. Meier in conclusion, "scientific instinct, commercial acumen and the courage to support change." These, he said, were precisely the ingredients necessary for the running and more importantly for the further development of a leading modern university. With his many activities for the business sector, for society and for science, Prof. Strube has successfully shown how these three components can be combined to the advantage of a globally operating company and "especially important for us" a globally operating university.
Photos of the ceremony can be downloaded from www.basf.de/pressefotos under the heading "BASF Aktiengesellschaft".
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