Dies Academicus of the University of Basel: Musician Heinz Holliger and AIDS doctor Ruedi Lüthy awarded new honorary doctorates
On Friday, 29 November 2019, the University of Basel celebrated its Dies Academicus for the 559th time. The seven new honorary doctors include oboist and composer Heinz Holliger and Zurich AIDS physician Ruedi Lüthy. Other honorary doctorates went to pastor Martin Stingelin, entrepreneur Klaus Endress and three researchers from the US: lawyer Bryan A. Stevenson, cell biologist Randy W. Schekman and psychologist Jerome R. Busemeyer.
The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences awarded its honorary doctorate to Heinz Holliger, a musician and composer living in Basel. An oboe virtuoso of worldwide renown, he has experimented with advanced playing techniques, rediscovered several forgotten musicians of the 18th century and inspired new works by important contemporary composers. As a composer, the 80-year-old pushes the boundaries of sound and language, and as a conductor and organizer he is deeply involved in Basel’s musical culture through significant institutional and artistic contributions.
The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Basel awarded an honorary doctorate to Prof. Ruedi Lüthy, who has been a pioneer in the fight against HIV/AIDS since the 1980s. As one of the first clinicians and researchers in this field, he has made an outstanding contribution worldwide to deepening the understanding of this disease, through his selfless and compassionate dedication. His work has significantly advanced diagnostics and therapies. Lüthi was involved in the establishment of an HIV/AIDS clinic and the Lighthouse in Zurich, as well as the establishment of an outpatient HIV clinic in Harare (Zimbabwe) in 2004.
A theologian and an entrepreneur
The Faculty of Theology awarded its honorary doctorate to Martin Stingelin, the Basel churchman and pastor, who has been President of the Church Council of the Evangelical Reformed Church of canton Basel-Land for more than 10 years. Working at the intersection of church and economy, he has championed the national and international cooperation of churches, promoted inter-religious relations and been committed to people on the margins of society. His focus has always been on issues such as education, social responsibility, equal opportunities, poverty reduction and integration.
The Faculty of Business and Economics awarded an honorary doctorate to the industrial engineer and entrepreneur Klaus Endress, who has headed the Endress+Hauser Group in Reinach, BL, since 1995. He has proven that value-driven management based on tradition, responsibility and loyalty is not at odds with economic success and modernization. He was also honored for his commitment to education, culture, research and politics. Endress represented canton Basel-Land on the University Council of the University of Basel from 2005 to 2018.
Three honorary doctorates for US scientists
The Faculty of Law of the University of Basel awarded an honorary doctorate to the US lawyer and civil rights activist Prof. Bryan A. Stevenson. The director of the Equal Justice Initiative and professor of criminal justice at New York University School of Law has been campaigning for decades against racial discrimination in the US criminal justice system. As a lawyer, he has represented defendants and prisoners sentenced to death in the southern states of the US since 1985.
The Faculty of Science awarded its honorary doctorate to Nobel Laureate Prof. Randy W. Schekman, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. As a leading cell biologist, he discovered the genetic and molecular basis of membrane transport in living cells. He played a key role in the support of research at the University of Basel during a sabbatical year at the Biozentrum and on its scientific advisory board.
Lastly, the Faculty of Psychology honored a further American with a doctorate: Prof. Jerome R. Busemeyer, professor of psychology and neuroscience, cognitive science and statistics at Indiana University Bloomington. He was recognized for his contribution to improving cognitive science and for his achievements in establishing mathematical psychology and cognitive modeling as an integral part of modern psychology.
Dies speech on fake news
At the ceremony in St. Martin’s Church, Prof. Andrea Schenker-Wicki, President of the University of Basel, gave her Dies speech entitled Fake News. We must not allow fake news to negatively affect our society, exploit people’s good faith and scare us, she said. The in-depth analysis of facts and arguments and the communication of well-founded insights are more necessary than ever – not least to prevent the belief in conspiracy theories from becoming socially acceptable again.
The celebration was followed by a traditional lunch banquet at Theater Basel for guests of the President of the University and the Master of the Academic Guild.
Alex Capus wins Alumni Prize
The University of Basel’s Alumni Prize 2019 was awarded to the author Alex Capus as one of the most productive and well-known contemporary Swiss writers. His novels and stories combine historical investigation and local color with a bold imagination, fully fleshed characters and captivating dramaturgy. Capus, who studied history, philosophy and ethnology at the University of Basel, often chooses his subjects on the basis of historical themes and scenes that take him abroad.
The Alumni Prize is awarded to former students of the University of Basel who have distinguished themselves through outstanding accomplishments in society, science, economics and culture, and who have thus contributed particularly to the positive image of the University of Basel in the public eye.
University of Basel prizes
A number of other accolades were granted at the Dies Academicus to junior researchers in recognition of outstanding theses. The Amerbach Prize, funded by the University of Basel, was awarded to physicist Dr. Oliver Müller in recognition of his outstanding dissertation on the distribution and motion of dwarf galaxies in the constellation Centaurus A. He identified common motion patterns around the main galaxy, and his work represents a major breakthrough in astronomy and cosmology.
The sports prize, sponsored by Basler Versicherung AG, went to Seraina Rodewald, a master’s student in geosciences, who won a bronze medal in the lightweight class at the European Universities Rowing Championships 2019 in Jönköping (Sweden).
Elisa Gerten, MSc, received the Emilie Louise Frey Prize 2019 for the promotion of young female scientists, sponsored by the Schweizerische Verband der Akademikerinnen Basel, for her excellent master's thesis at the Faculty of Economic Sciences.
In addition, the following faculty prizes were presented to a number of junior researchers for outstanding dissertations and studies:
- the Faculty of Law prize, sponsored by the law firm Vischer, to Dr. Raphaela Cueni, LL.M.
- the Faculty of Medicine prize, sponsored by the five university hospitals in northwestern Switzerland, to Dr. Martin Diebold
- the Humanities Prize of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, sponsored by the L. and Th. La Roche Foundation, to Dr. Astrid Elisabeth Reichel
- the Faculty of Science prize, sponsored by Adobe Research (Schweiz) AG, to Dr. Matteo Fadel and Dr. Claudia Miriam Schmutz
- 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. Lukas Altermatt
- The Faculty of Psychology’s Steven Karger Prize, sponsored by the medical and scientific publisher Karger, to Dr. Mikhail Spektor
Dr. Katharina Richarda Beck received the prize sponsored by Prof. lrma Tschudi-Steiner for the best pharmaceutical dissertation written by a scientist.
Silvan Heller received the Young Talent Prize from the student association “Schwizerhüsli”; the award is sponsored by the Ferdinand Neeracher-Pfrunder Foundation.
Matthias Geering, University of Basel, Head of Communications & Marketing, tel: +41 61 207 35 75, mobile: +41 79 269 70 71, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos of the celebration at St. Martin’s Church, Basel, will be available in the University of Basel’s Media Database from noon on Friday, 29 November 2019.