VUB doctorates to connect the world

VUB doctorates to connect the world

Wednesday 17 November - 20.00 - De Munt

Dear journalist,

After a delay of a year and a half due to the pandemic, on Wednesday 17 November the Vrije Universiteit Brussel will finally present the five honorary doctorates it awarded in 2020. The first of these titles goes to science writer Ann Druyan, the second to artist William Kentridge, the third to politician Pierre Kompany, and to Antoni Ribas and Thierry Boon – world authorities in the field of immunotherapy, a ground-breaking approach to cancer.

We would be pleased to have you at the presentation. For registration, interviews or other requests, please contact the VUB press office.


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

21.45: Reception

Honorary Doctorates

Ann Druyan

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.

William Kentridge

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.

Pierre Kompany

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.

Contact us
Sicco Wittermans Press officer, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Sicco Wittermans Press officer, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
About Press - Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

The World Needs You

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.


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