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A particularly joyful annual celebration

Last year, the annual celebration was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On Friday 10 September, Aarhus University made up for lost time by celebrating its 93rd anniversary with a ceremony in the Main Hall, a concert at Concert Hall Aarhus and Denmark’s biggest Friday bar and sports day in the University Park. Watch a video about this year’s distinguished alums, videos of speakers and read about all award recipients here.

2021.09.14 | Ida Hammerich Nielson

This year's distinguished alumnus Bent Hansen (right) with Rector Brian Bech Nielsen. Photo: Søren Kjeldgaard

The recipients of the Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Prizes Professor Eva Gulløv and associate professor Lars Bo Gundersen with rektor Brian Bech Nielsen. Photo: Lars Kruse

Five students received Queen Margrethe II travel grants. Photo: Lars Kruse

Honorary doctorates 2021. Photo: Lars Kruse

Photo: Søren Kjeldgaard

“The university’s significance to society was revealed in all its many facets during the coronavirus shutdown. We saw science show us a way out of the pandemic. We saw researchers informing the population, day after day, soberly and tirelessly. And we saw some of the university’s experts advise the country’s decision-makers. This is just one example of the important role of the universities. Society’s demand for knowledge continues to increase. A demand we must meet. And we do!”

This was one of the highlights of Rector Brian Bech Nielsen’s 93rd anniversary address  at the ceremony in the Main Hall, which was attended by employees and partners and friends of Aarhus University. The rector also lauded employees’ contribution during the Covid-19 shutdown, comparing the university to Anolis aquaticus, a small terrestrial lizard from Central America which can survive under water for long periods thanks to a small bubble of air on its head.

“We had our heads under water. But Aarhus University kept on breathing. And this is purely thanks to our incredibly skilled administrative, technical and academic employees and our fantastic students. They deserve our deepest respect and appreciation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart – you are the bearers of the university’s spirit and will.”

Watch the video of Rector Bech Nielsen’s speech (in danish)

AU Board Chair Connie Hedegaard: Knowledge never goes out of fashion
Connie Hedegaard, chair of the AU Board, addressed the government’s plans to decentralise degree programmes in her speech:

“Knowledge never goes out of fashion. And that includes in-depth knowledge. And particularly not in a complex society. So weakening research and education by decentralising programmes and dissipating resources is not a step to be taken lightly. On the contrary, I would contend, what’s needed – in a small country with eight universities – is a more holistic, coordinated approach, so that we organise ourselves so as to ensure critical mass in the areas where we choose to be strong, so that we optimise cooperation between degree programmes and faculties, in fact between universities and institutions as well. In other words: Hasn’t the time come for a more strategic approach to the entire sector?”

Watch a video of AU Board Chair Connie Hedegaard’s speech (in danish)

2021 Distinguished Alumnus Bent Hansen: AU opened up a new world for me
This year's distinguished alumnus is Bent Hansen, former chair of the regional council and chair of Danish Regions, who took his MA at AU. Bent Hansen is the 13th distinguished alum to be honoured by Aarhus University, and he was selected in recognition of the crucial role he has played for the Danish healthcare sector and for his contribution to strengthening collaboration between Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital. Hansen is perhaps best known for a number of large hospital construction projects, including Aarhus University Hospital, which has been named the best university hospital in Denmark for the thirteenth time. In his speech, Bent Hansen took the audience 52 years back in time, to his time as a student at Aarhus University:

"The university opened up a whole new world for me. The practical knowledge that I was pretty good at acquiring was challenged by a completely different methodological approach. The transition from Th. Langs Gymnasium in Silkeborg to Aarhus University was huge. It was like entering a new world where the challenge was to avoid losing your courage and your belief in your ability to succeed.”

Watch Bent Hansen’s speech (in danish)

Watch a video about Bent Hansen and read a portrait

Student speaker Maja Lermark: Is educational a driver’s license for your professional career?
Student speaker Maja Lermark Schøn, who is close to completing her MSc in biology, shared some of the thoughts students have on the threshold to leaving the university and finding an ‘adult job’:

“I’ve encountered the metaphor that an education is a driver’s license for your professional career a number of times. But for a university education to serve as a driver’s license, the university has to show us several different routes to navigate between. Students have to know how to bring their newly acquired competencies into play in different contexts. And these contexts have to be interdisciplinary. We need to be introduced to what’s on the other side of the yellow walls.”

Watch the video of Maja Lermark’s speech

Other honours and awards

Lars Bo Gundersen, associate professor of philosophy, is the recipient of the Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Prize of Honour for Pedagogics 2021

Eva Gulløv, professor of child anthropology, is the recipient of the Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Research Communication Prize 2021 

Honorary doctorates were conferred on the following five researchers:
Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro (Arts)
Professor Patricia Bauer (Aarhus BSS)
Professor Katja Zeppenfeld (Health)
Professor Conny Aerts (Natural Sciences)
Professor Peter L Tyack (Technical Sciences)

Read more about the honorary doctorates

The following five students received Queen Margrethe II travel grants:

Frederik Giessing Nielsen, MSc student in mechanical engineering, Technical Sciences
Thomas Jensen, MSc student in medicine, Health
Cathrine Abild Meyer, MSc student in nanoscience, Natural Sciences
Anne Siri Snell, MSc student in political science, Aarhus BSS
Sara Cecilie Utvaag, MSc student in archaeology, Arts

Read more about the travel grant recipients

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