Boris and Axel fund for creative student ideas

Following the deaths of Axel Verstegen and Boris Bakker, their families came up with a way to ensure that the legacy and vision of these two bachelor's students Sustainable Innovation live on. Today, one year and one day after the fatal skiing accident, the Boris and Axel fund is being presented. It is intended for students who need a financial boost in order to develop an innovative idea. Axel’s sister Dorrith explains how the fund came about.

photo privé collectie

The fact that Boris and Axel's farewell ceremony took place at the Student Sports Center was due to the wish of both families to organize a joint farewell with the families and students involved. Due to the Covid-19 measures in place at the time, only a limited solution was possible which the university was happy to assist with. The TU/e sports complex, which was large enough to accommodate the 1.5-meter distancing rule, was chosen as the venue. The funeral home also cooperated so that everyone could collectively pay their last respects to the boys in this special place. “The sports hall of their university was a good fit for the boys’ sporty personalities”, says Dorrith Verstegen, Axel’s sister and master’s student in Biomedical Engineering at TU/e.


The hall accommodated five hundred people, and that was just a selection of those who would have liked to attend. “That’s why we also set up a livestream”, says Dorrith. “It was very emotional, this farewell ceremony for two boys who died during a trip organized by their study association. It was intense, but also beautiful. We had planned an hour and a half of speeches, but it ended up being three hours. Boris’ sister Lieselot, my brother Arno, all of our parents, representatives of the associations they had been part of (Intermate, Fellenoord, Tantalus, Panache), and more; everyone shared such beautiful memories. Another very special thing about this farewell is that several people said that Boris and Axel loved to do crazy things, like diving into the water somewhere as often as possible. They suggested that on this day, February 14 - also Boris' birthday - we do the same. And that is what happened: at least thirty students jumped into the Dommel after the ceremony.”

University fund

Not long after this special farewell, the idea came to both parent couples to establish a fund with the money they had set aside for their sons’ studies. Dorrith: “A fair amount of money from both boys now became available which they could no longer use. They were in the middle of their studies, and we would like the money set aside for their ideas to go to other students’ innovative and creative ideas.”

As a student and former ESSF and Fellenoord board member, Dorrith knows how to apply for money for activities. “I’ve often used university funds for associations myself. For example, those from the Eindhoven University Fund (UFe) and the ministry's National Education Program (NPO). And in January, another application for funding was approved by StEHVen. This was for the ESSF Student Sports Gala.”

Boris and Axel fund

Boris and Axel's parents would like to support innovative and creative projects related to sports, sustainability and inclusivity. Dorrith could tell them all about the internal structures of TU/e and also informed them about the cash prizes for the TU/e Contest, the existence of the GO Green Office, and much more. The decision was made to establish a named fund under the banner of UFe.

The money contributed by the Verstegen family and the Bakker family was matched by TU/e. The total amount is substantial and will help students for years to come. “After all, Boris and Axel were supposed to remain here for at least another four years.” Once a quarter, the Department Board of IE&IS, the UFe and Lieselot and Dorrith - as representatives of their families - will review the applications.

Large and small steps

“We could support a student with thousands of euros, but it would also be nice to be able to help students on their way if, for example, they only need sixty euros to build a prototype, buy software or arrange other practical matters. The application doesn’t need to include a complete business plan, just a good cover letter. We will assess the submitted applications every quarter, because I know that students don’t have time to wait a whole year before they can continue." 

The family will be eagerly following what happens in terms of applications. But according to Dorrith, one thing is certain: “It feels good to keep Axel and Boris involved in the university in this way.”

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