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University of Basel

24 November 2017

Dies Academicus: Roger Federer Honorary Doctor of the University of Basel

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Andrea Schenker-Wicki, President of the University of Basel, during her speech at the Dies academicus 2017. (Image: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Andrea Schenker-Wicki, President of the University of Basel, during her speech at the Dies academicus 2017. (Image: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)

At the 557th Dies Academicus, the University of Basel awarded honorary doctorates to seven figures from society and academia – five men and two women. Those honored included tennis star Roger Federer, the president of the Swiss National Bank Thomas Jordan and the children’s musician Andrew Bond.

In her speech to mark the University of Basel’s 557th anniversary, President Prof. Dr. Andrea Schenker-Wicki took the opportunity to reflect on the challenges a modern research university of the early 21st century faces.

Trends such as globalization, demographic change, increasing importance of the knowledge society, as well as the digitalization, lead to universities becoming more economically important as key drivers of innovation.

At the same time, the pressure on universities is rising under the increasing international competition in research and development. Expanding costs, in turn, lead to demands for new forms of collaboration and organization. She emphasized that politics and institutions of higher education have to face these demands.

Two women and five men

At this year’s Dies Academicus, each of the seven faculties of the University of Basel awarded honorary doctorates to a figure from academia and society.

The Faculty of Medicine awarded its honorary doctorate to Roger Federer for increasing the international reputation of Basel and Switzerland, as well as for his function as a role model athlete, who encourages many people around the world to be physically more active and thus contributes to the promotion of health. Also mentioned was Federer’s engagement for children in Africa through his foundation.

Federer, who was not able to take part in the ceremony in person, expressed his appreciation with a short greeting in which he claimed that the honorary doctorate makes him just as happy as a Grand Slam title.

Prof. Dr. Thomas J. Jordan received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Business and Economics for his merits to the Swiss monetary and currency policy in very turbulent times, as well as for his exceptional research work and his continuous striving to base fiscal policies on scientific foundations. He was also honored for his support of the study center “Gerzensee” through which the Swiss National Bank makes an important contribution towards the qualification of young economists.

The Faculty of Theology bestowed an honorary doctorate on Andrew Bond to honor him for imparting Christian beliefs and theological topics in a modern and child-oriented approach. He has implemented his creative projects, as the author of educational, religious teaching material and as a musician in multiple ways. It was also mentioned that Bond and his family have been actively supporting a local school and training center in the Congo for years.

Personality psychology and translations

The honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Psychology was awarded to the personality psychologist Prof. Dr. Brent W. Roberts in recognition of his novel, comprehensive and groundbreaking understanding of patterns of continuity and change in personality over the entire lifespan and of the processes that shape these patterns. He inspired a generation of young researchers to study the life-long development of personality with the latest methods and rigorous research designs.

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences’ honorary doctorate was conferred on the translator Irma Wehrli-Rudin, born in Liestal, for her congenial transmission of influential works of anglophone authors as wells as francophone Swiss authors into German. Since earning her degree at the University of Basel in 1980, she has earned an excellent reputation as a cultural mediator far beyond the national borders.

Nature conservation and spatial planning

The Faculty of Science honored the conservationist Katharina Heyer with an honorary doctorate for her tireless commitment to protecting the whales and dolphins in the Strait of Gibraltar in the past twenty years. In cooperation with the University of Basel, she has enabled students and others to encounter whales and has done significant research work and awareness-raising. Also, she initiates scientific projects and critical discussions on the subject, not least through her foundation.

The Faculty of Law awarded an honorary doctorate to Lukas Bühlmann, Director of the Swiss Spatial Planning Association, for his great dedication to the current challenges in regional development in Switzerland. With his innovative approach to a sustainable residential development, he has built bridges between research, teaching, and practice, as well as between levels of government.

University prizes

In addition to the honorary doctorates, a number of other prizes were awarded at the Dies Academicus. The Amerbach Prize, sponsored by the University of Basel, was awarded to Dr. Lukas Schaub for his legal dissertation with the title “Die Finanzierung von Wahl- und Abstimmungskämpfen – Ein Beitrag zum demokratischen Diskurs und zur politischen Chancengleichheit”.

The Athletics Prize, sponsored by Basler Versicherungen, was awarded to Valérie Rosset, who won a bronze medal in single rowing at the European Universities Championship 2017 in Subotica (Serbia).

Dr. Katharina Ruhe received the Emilie-Louise-Frey Award which supports young female scientists. In her dissertation at the Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Ruhe studied the integration of children with cancer in therapy decisions.

Dr. Roland Bühlmann, President of AlumniBasel, presented the Alumni Award 2017 to environmental physicist and science manager Prof. Dr. Dieter M. Imboden. (Image: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)
Dr. Roland Bühlmann, President of AlumniBasel, presented the Alumni Award 2017 to environmental physicist and science manager Prof. Dr. Dieter M. Imboden. (Image: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)

Alumni Award

The University of Basel’s Alumni Award 2017 was presented to environmental physicist and science manager Prof. Dr. Dieter M. Imboden who was President of the Swiss National Science Foundation from 2005 to 2012. He received this honor for his ability to identify and solve complex problems, to bring together people and ideas in productive processes and to develop new and innovative approaches.

Faculty Prizes

The following faculty prizes were presented to junior researchers for their outstanding dissertations and studies:

  • the Faculty of Theology Prize to Dr. des. Claudia Hoffmann
  • the Faculty of Law Prize, sponsored by the law firm Vischer, to Dr. Cordula Lötscher
  • the Faculty of Medicine Prize, sponsored by Roche Pharma Research, to Dr. Elina Grazia Wirz
  • the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Prize, sponsored by the L. and Th. La Roche Foundation, to Dr. Bianca Hoenig
  • the Faculty of Science Prize, sponsored by Adobe Research (Schweiz) AG, to Dr. Christian Lori and Dr. Adrian Najer
  • the Faculty of Business and Economics Prize, sponsored by the Basler Kantonalbank Foundation for the promotion of economics research and teaching at the University of Basel, to Dr. Michaela Slotwinski
  • the Steven Karger Prize of the Faculty of Psychology, sponsored by the medical and scientific publishing house Karger, to Dr. Selma C. Rudert

Further awards

Dr. Jacqueline Bezençon received the lrma Tschudi-Steiner prize for the best doctoral thesis in Pharmaceutical Sciences written by a female scientist.

Alexander Schorro received the Young Talent Award from the student association “Schwizerhüsli”. This award is sponsored by the Ferdinand Neeracher Pfrunder Foundation.

Further information

Matthias Geering, University of Basel, Head of Communications & Marketing, phone: +41 61 207 35 75, mobile: +41 79 269 70 71, email: matthias.geering@unibas.ch


Photos of the ceremony in St. Martin’s Church will be available in our media database in the afternoon of Friday, 24 November 2017.

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