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University of Basel

26 November 2021

Dies Academicus 2021: University of Basel presents seven female honorary doctors

Dies academicus 2021
Rector Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Andrea Schenker-Wicki during her speech at the Dies academicus 2021. (Photo: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)

In an official ceremony, the University of Basel opened its Dies Academicus for the 561st time and awarded honorary doctorates to an entirely female line-up for the first time ever. The recipients include publisher Gabriella Karger, historian Michelle Perrot, and Luther researcher Lyndal Roper. Further honorary doctorates went to developmental biologist Ruth Lehmann, economist Margaret Slade, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Rosemary Kayess, human rights lawyer in the field of disability law.

The honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine went to Gabriella Karger, who has led Karger Publishers in Basel as a publisher since 2012 and as Chair of the Board of Directors since 2018. She has unflaggingly advocated for publication of the latest research in medicine and for knowledge transfer from research to clinical practice, while simultaneously championing the preservation and revision of historical medical literature.

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences awarded the distinction of an honorary doctorate in philosophy to the French historian Professor Michelle Perrot. She is a pioneer of women’s and gender history and a leading light of contemporary history. Throughout her life, Michelle Perrot has also dedicated herself to civil causes such as the women’s movement, opposition to the Algerian War, and the AIDS crisis.

The Faculty of Theology awarded its honorary doctorate to Oxford historian Professor Lyndal Roper. Her work has opened up new lines of thought about key figures of the Reformation – especially Martin Luther, whom she examined from new perspectives of corporeality and emotion. She developed her own approaches to classic topics in Reformed theology like the Lord’s Supper controversy.

The Faculty of Science distinguished biologist Professor Ruth Lehmann with its honorary doctorate. As a leading developmental biologist, she discovered the genetic and molecular underpinnings of germ cell and embryo development. At the same time, she has supported and inspired generations of scientists in her capacity as the director of outstanding research institutions.

In distinguishing Professor Margaret Slade, the Faculty of Business and Economics awarded its honorary doctorate to a researcher who has published trailblazing works in the field of industrial organization. She was one of the first people to show how to use carefully collected data and empirical methods to test established theories about competitive behavior exhibited by agents in real existing markets. This close link between theory and empiricism in the analysis of practical questions has become a model for academic work in economics.

The Faculty of Psychology awarded its honorary doctorate to Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky. She has presented groundbreaking work on the questions of what makes people happy, whether happiness is linked to having advantages in life, and how people can learn to live a happier life. She shaped these questions into a comprehensive theoretical framework, the construal theory of happiness. Today, the American happiness scientist is one of the most highly respected psychologists in the world.

Australian human rights lawyer Rosemary Kayess received the honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Law. She has dedicated her career as an academic and practitioner to advancing the rights of people with disabilities. She was a crucial force behind the formulation of the right to an education as currently embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has left a deep mark on the contemporary rights of people with disabilities and the enforcement of those rights.

Dies talk on “trust”

President Andrea Schenker-Wicki delivered her Dies talk entitled “Trust” during the ceremony at Basel Minster. Although many people generally trust science more than, for example, politics, the pandemic has damaged public trust in science. We as a society should not be indifferent to this, Professor Schenker-Wicki said. “For a country with few natural resources like Switzerland, trust in science and its institutions is a key factor in maintaining prosperity,” the President said, adding that the university is taking action to counter this development with transparency and good governance and to build a culture of trust.

Dr. Roland Bühlmann, President of AlumniBasel, presents the Alumni Award 2021 to the physician Prof. Regine Landmann-Suter. (Photo: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)
Dr. Roland Bühlmann, President of AlumniBasel, presents the Alumni Award 2021 to the physician Prof. Regine Landmann-Suter. (Photo: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)

Alumni Prize for Regine Landmann-Suter

The University of Basel’s Alumni Prize 2021 was awarded to medical doctor Professor Regine Landmann-Suter. The award honors her as a role model for young women, an exceptional mentor, a successful researcher, and a leader in biomedical research.

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.

President Prof. Dr. Andrea Schenker-Wicki in the midst of the faculty prize winners. (Photo: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)
President Prof. Dr. Andrea Schenker-Wicki in the midst of the faculty prize winners. (Photo: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)

University of Basel prizes

A number of other honors were conferred at the Dies Academicus. The Amerbach Prize, sponsored by the University of Basel, was awarded at the Faculty of Medicine’s recommendation to Professor Carolyn King in recognition of her outstanding contributions to basic immunological research. Her work has improved our understanding of how different immune cells develop specialized functions to eradicate infections and generate memory cells. Her research provides a foundation for developing and improving vaccines.

The University of Basel’s Sports Prize, sponsored by Basler Versicherung AG, went to Matthias Steinmann, BA, a master’s student in the Institute for Educational Sciences. The track and field athlete became the Swiss decathlon champion in 2021.

Faculty prizes

In addition, the following faculty prizes were presented to a number of junior researchers for outstanding dissertations and studies:

  • The Faculty of Theology Prize to Dr. Barbara Häne and Dr. Stefan Ragaz
  • The Faculty of Law Prize, sponsored by the law firm Vischer, to Dr. Dario Ammann
  • The Faculty of Medicine Prize for the best PhD dissertation, sponsored by the Goldschmidt-Jacobson Foundation, to Dr. Marcello Ienca; the prize for best dissertation written to obtain a medical doctorate, sponsored by the University Hospitals, to Dr. Anneza Panagiotou
  • The Humanities Prize of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, sponsored by the L. and Th. La Roche Foundation, to Dr. Simon Schaupp
  • The Faculty of Science Prize, sponsored by Adobe Research (Schweiz) AG, to Dr. Salomé Eriksson and Dr. Dasha Elena Nelidova
  • 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. Marius Faber
  • The Faculty of Psychology’s Steven Karger Prize, sponsored by the medical and scientific publisher Karger, to Dr. Maria Douneva and Silvia Meyer, M Sc.

Other honors

Dr. Anima Schäfer received the prize sponsored by Professor lrma Tschudi-Steiner for the best pharmaceutical dissertation written by a female scientist.

The Young Talent Prize of the student association “Schwizerhüsli”, sponsored by the Ferdinand Neeracher-Pfrunder Foundation, was awarded to Maiken Maier, M Sc, of the Faculty of Business and Economics.

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 at Basel Minster will be available in the Media Database from Friday afternoon, 26 November 2021.

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