Brand-new alumni, aging veterans, ladies in smart dresses, men in suits, and former student association members in matching sweaters. The dismal weather fails to prevent these Tilburg University alumni from visiting their alma mater. On Saturday, November 18, more than four hundred of them celebrate Tilburg University’s 90th anniversary together. “It was the best time of our lives.”
By: Melinde Bussemaker
The anniversary’s theme of “Connecting People and Knowledge” forms the central theme throughout the program during Alumni Day. The alumni enter Cobbenhagen building via the pink anniversary carpet, decorated with photographs from the university’s history. Alumni meetings are all about connecting: with each other and with the university. This is immediately obvious on entering. There are many glances of recognition: Are you here as well? The class of 1970 stand out: they are all wearing academic caps decorated with the pink anniversary banner. The gentlemen received the headgear because of their participation in the “Bring a Friend” alumni campaign. They clearly attract the attention among the other alumni, the chairs of Have a Seat, and the coffee with taaitaai and gevulde speculaas, due to the Arrival of Saint Nicholas today.
Ambitions for growth
Frederique Knoet, DARO’s Managing Director, launched the afternoon in a well-filled Auditorium. She is proud that the alumni are present in large numbers today to meet their old rowing mates, classmates, and fellow students and celebrate Tilburg University’s 90th anniversary. On the big screen, the names and photographs of the people present and the matching statistics appear. Knoet: “From 28 male students at the start in 1927 to 64,540 alumni in 2017; Tilburg University has grown immensely.” This is confirmed by the President of the Executive Board, Koen Becking. “At this moment, 14,300 students representing more than one hundred nationalities walk around on our campus. And in our Strategic Plan, we strive for more growth in the future.” In the meantime, he draws the alumni’s attention to the interesting vacancies at the university and the connection it explicitly wants to make with the city of Tilburg.
In this context, the floor is subsequently given to the Director of Citymarketing Tilburg and alumnus Marc Meeuwis. Based on his personal story, he talks about his connection with the city and the university. From his TIK Week in 1988 to his contribution to the success of Guus Meeuwis & Vagant, on the tambourine as well as in a business sense, and the sudden immersion of the band to graduating in Tax Law in 1996 and his present position as a City marketer now. “What started during a small song contest in 1994 has now led to the thirteenth Groots met een zachte G concert. During my time as a student, I learned to think a certain way and that has helped me in my years after graduation. In 2015, I launched Citymarketing Tilburg. It is about visitors, inhabitants, businesses, and brains. For example, we are now setting up a large platform: Ticket to Tilburg. I am proud of the city I have now lived in for almost thirty years. I hope you are too.”
Next, it is time for the connection with knowledge. The alumni can choose to participate in one of seven knowledge sessions. Professor Peter Achterberg goes on to speak about the gap between the confidence in science in “And the truth shall set you free: Modern-day public support for science!” Professor Max Louwerse and Dr. George Knox give a sneak preview of the Alumni Masterclasses on “Virtual, Mixed & Augmented Reality” and “Does Product Variety Connect or Fragment Consumers?” Associate Professor Ben Vollaard argues that “Imprisonment in the Netherlands is Underrated.” Assistant Professor Remco Mannak hosts a popular session on the influence of networking on success.
Professor Willem-Jan van den Heuvel and Dr. Frank Bosman look at data science from an economic and a theological perspective. Alumni association Friends of Cobbenhagen organizes an interactive Dragons’ Den under the title of “Sustainability in the Boardroom”, supported virtually by Wouter Scheepens, founder of Steward Redqueen, a specialized consulting agency that works across the globe to advise organizations on impact and sustainability. The alumni work together in teams during these sessions to prepare a short presentation in which they map out a sustainable way forward for a company. The most successful team win a copy of the book Sustainability in the Boardroom as well as a workshop taught by Scheepens. Finally, the alumni can opt for a guided tour on the campus under the guidance of Academic Heritage project leader Pieter Siebers.
Quiz and stew
Then it is time for the stamppot buffet, your standard student dish. Young and old are eating side by side at standing tables and along the bars. They chat or listen to singer and guitarist Geert Lamerichs. Among them is Clemens van der Werf, the oldest alumnus present today, who graduated in 1960 at the Bosscheweg location. “I still regularly meet my former classmates during meetings of the BZW, the entrepreneurial organization for Brabant and Zeeland. Unfortunately, none of them are here today.” During the drinks reception and the buffet, there is a quiz, organized by student association St. Olof. The fifteen questions range from the name of the current rector and the year in which students occupied the university to the year in which football club Willem II played in the Champions League. The alumni enjoy the quiz, but no one answers all questions correctly.
Best time of my life
That the connection with the university still exists is also borne out by the presence of alumni from abroad. Some alumni have travelled from Germany or from Dublin for the day. Alumnus Wil Maas still has a special connection with the university. “My wife is having dinner with her former fellow students in the Portraits Room. We met in the 1960s, when she was one of the few female students. It was the best time of our lives. My active fraternity celebrated its 54th anniversary last year and our son graduated here, too.” After dinner, buses transport those interested in the Cantus to rowing association Vidar. And it was a long time before the dust settled.