Last week, I spoke with Executive Board president Robert-Jan Smits and dean Ingrid Heynderickx about our university’s 65th anniversary celebrations. Rotten luck perhaps in terms of timing, but 65 is 65, corona or no corona. This isn’t something you can postpone, like a European football championship or the Summer Olympics. Despite the somewhat blurry Teams connection and the early hour of the day, it was a meeting with glasses that were very much half full. For me, it will take some work before I’ve adopted a similar mindset.
Sure enough, just when our university manages to reach retirement age - yes, to my old school way of thinking people still retire at 65 - our society and our institution muddles along as we move towards an uncertain end to a still rampant pandemic. That doesn’t make it easy for me remove my sad corona cap and replace it with a colorful party hat as of January 1.
We see our freshmen struggle, and the almost contactless study months are starting to have an increasingly disastrous impact on our senior students as well. For international students, who can’t just travel a short distance to Limburg or Brabant to visit their families, the situation is even more taxing. And look at our lecturers, researchers and auxiliary staff members, who continue to hope for more room for physical contact, but are disappointed each time. That doesn’t exactly get me in a festive mood.
But we’re still going to have a party, according to Smits, who was already looking forward to it before the coronavirus struck. We will celebrate all year through, just look at the program we’ve prepared, he and dean Heynderickx (Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences) say. She also sees the positive side: now that the university’s anniversary congress ‘Superheroes in science’ takes place online on April 29, TU/e will be able to welcome those speakers who otherwise could not have travelled to Eindhoven. She won’t give any names yet. The least I’m hoping for now, is a live connection with Elon Musk.
No one will have failed to notice that this anniversary year’s theme is ‘Heroes like you.’ We found a flashy video in our mailbox just after Christmas. Standing in Bert Blocken’s wind tunnel, scientists, students and long serving catering employee Anneke van Rijswijk told their stories. They talked about the setbacks they faced, and how they had overcome these. All this accompanied by a deep, sonorous American voiceover that faintly reminded me of Trump (although that probably wasn’t the intention). The message: headwind will change into tailwind this year. As a journalist who also dabbles weather forecasting, I would like to add that we need to remain alert to heavy sidewinds now and then.
Our Executive Board president was reluctant to give away too much information when the subject was raised of a large art object that will be placed somewhere on the campus to bring this anniversary year to the attention of coming generations as well. “Just think about ‘heroes,’ our theme,” he said with a smile, leaving me behind in my office pondering the matter deeply.
Fortunately, one of Cursor’s editorial staff members, Norbine Schalij, was much more awake that morning. “Oh, it’s an enormous mirror in which everyone on campus can see their own reflection.” Of course! And with the following words above it: ‘Good morning hero, who will you hug today?’ Yes, I’m slowly starting to catch that festive vibe now.