The theme of the ceremony is “connecting”. That’s why the university awards each honorary doctorate with a partner institution, to emphasise its links with institutions in Brussels, Flanders and the world.
VUB rector Caroline Pauwels: “The new honorary doctors come from a wide variety of sectors, but they have one thing in common: they connect. That’s what the world needs today, people reaching out to the other. People who look not for differences but for similarities. People who want to listen to each other.”
For their exceptional friendship, which demonstrates that forgiveness and solidarity are possible even after disastrous events, Koenraad Tinel and Simon Gronowski will be honoured as well at this ceremony. They also were awarded an honorary doctorate in March last year: a joint title from VUB and ULB, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of VUB and the festive year 2019-2020. They were presented with this honorary doctorate at the Academic Opening in September 2020.
The ceremony will be extra special as it takes place in the Royal Muntschouwburg and the renowned composer Dirk Brossé will perform as the guest conductor of the VUB Orchestra, led by Jurgen Wayenberg.
The ceremony will take place on Wednesday 17 November at the Royal Muntschouwburg, Leopoldstraat 23, 1000 Brussels.
19.00: Doors open
20.00: Start ceremonie
With Erasmushogeschool Brussel
Ann Druyan is an American writer and producer of popular programmes on cosmology and science. She was married to cosmologist and science communicator Carl Sagan, who died in 1996. Druyan was creative director of the Nasa Voyager Interstellar Message Project when Sagan had the now famous photo of the Pale Blue Dot taken: a picture of the Earth from 6 billion kilometres away. At that distance, the Earth is not much more than a dot the size of a pixel. Sagan realised the iconic value of such a picture: it symbolises the enormous size of space, puts into perspective the impact humanity has on the universe, and emphasises that we don't have a planet B. With this in mind, Druyan remains committed to science popularisation. She came up with Cosmos, a docuseries about the universe, the first series of which was broadcast worldwide on National Geographic. The new series, Cosmos: Possible Worlds, will be launched in dozens of countries on 9 March. Her belief is that as more people become interested in science, we will achieve a better, more critical society.
With Ghent University and the University of the Western Cape, South Africa
William Kentridge is a filmmaker, artist and sculptor. Though he was born in Johannesburg in 1955 to a white family, he was exposed from the beginning to the consequences of apartheid in his country. His father was a lawyer for Nelson Mandela, and Kentridge regularly refers in his work to this turbulent period in the history of his country. He is well known in Belgium. In 2005, he created a remarkable production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute for De Munt, and his piece Ubu and the Truth Commission was performed at Bozar. He also has a deep connection with KunstenFESTIVALdesArts.
With the Brussels Parliament
Everyone immediately associates him with his son Vincent, but Pierre Kompany is himself a special figure. Marked out by Mobutu’s regime in Congo, he arrived in Belgium in 1975 as an undocumented migrant. More than 40 years later he became the first black mayor of Belgium, in the Brussels municipality of Ganshoren. He is an indication that Belgium is gradually putting its colonial past behind it. He has never denied his origins, but speaks with great respect of the country he has made his home.
Antoni Ribas and Thierry Boon
With UZ Brussel
Antoni Ribas is a world authority in the field of clinical research into immunotherapy, specifically for the treatment of malignant melanoma. He is one of the most referenced scientists in his field. Thierry Boon, a specialist in immunology, is emeritus professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain and former director of the Brussels branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the Institut international de Pathologie cellulaire et molecular (Institut de Duve). He is an internationally recognised authority in the field of cancer research and has won numerous prestigious prizes, including the Francqui Prize (1990) and the Louis-Jeantet Prize (1994).
Koenraad Tinel and Simon Gronowski
With the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Koenraad Tinel is a Belgian sculptor and artist. Simon Gronowski holds a doctorate in law, is a lawyer at the Brussels bar and a jazz pianist. The two men are close friends, which is perhaps surprising given their backgrounds. During World War Two, Gronowski escaped from the train that was taking him and his family to the extermination camp at Auschwitz when he was just 11. Tinel, meanwhile, grew up in a Flemish family who supported the Nazis. Their exceptional friendship is a powerful symbol of hope, happiness and peace.