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Lustrum with three honorary doctors

Lustrum with three honorary doctors

A mediagenic economist, a winner of souls and an American with an interest in Europe

MAASTRICHT. On the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, the UM is awarding three honorary doctorates during the foundation day celebrations. One goes to German pharmacologist Detlev Ganten, who has lectured his critics on more than one occasion. Another to American legal and political scientist Susan Rose-Ackerman, who is so versatile that almost every legal scientist knows her. And to Belgian economist Paul De Grauwe, who is a magnet for the media.

Professor Detlev Ganten: enthusiastic and charismatic

German pharmacologist Professor Detlev Ganten (1941) was once characterized in weekly magazine Die Zeit as a Menschenfischer, says Thomas Unger, scientific director of Carim. In the biblical sense, of course: someone who wins souls.

Unger: “That might be a tad overstated, but in the thirteen years that I have worked with him in the Institute of Pharmacology in Heidelberg, I did experience how well he can enthuse people for his case. He really has charisma.”

Ganten made his claim to fame in particular in the field of high blood pressure. He discovered that the renin enzyme, which increases blood pressure, doesn’t just circulate in the blood but also in organs, including the brain. “Shortly after his discovery, while doing a postdoc in Montreal, he heard that scientists at a congress in Hamburg doubted his discovery. The next day he boarded a plane to Germany and read the critics a lesson. Time has proven Ganten right.”

His fame grew when he decided to plant an additional renin gene from a mouse into a rat. This was to prove that a double portion of renin pushes blood pressure up further. Even then, many colleagues displayed scepticism. What is the point of all this, they wondered. But again Ganten came off best. His publication in Nature has often been quoted, and the experiment has strongly stimulated the use of genetic animal models.

Ganten has also won his spurs outside the world of science. Since 2009 he has chaired the annual World Health Summit in Berlin, one of the most important forums for world health problems, where scientists, politicians and CEOs formulate possible solutions for diseases, poverty and food scarcity. Ganten’s merits are reflected in a large number of prizes. In 2002 he received the Bundesverdienstkreuz, the highest German distinction. A year later he received a similar French testimonial: Légion d’honneur.

Professor Dr. Susan Rose-Ackerman: open-minded and with a broad interest

An American scientist with a great deal of interest in Europe, who has a good eye for comparative law and a long list of publications in a broad field within Law, Economics and Political Science. Professor Dr. Susan Rose-Ackerman (73) is Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale University.

Her honorary supervisor Professor Michael Faure tells us that she was originally an economist, and became known because of her opposition against the almost religious belief in the market of neoclassic economists from Chicago. Together with fellow judicial economists from Yale, she pointed out that the market could fail and that it could be disruptive. Government intervention is necessary when this happens, Rose-Ackerman argued on more than one occasion.

She earned her spurs in such fields as Public Law, Liability Law, Environmental Law, Criminal Law, Administrative Law, Economics and Political Science. She is very broadly orientated and is not stopped by national borders. Where most American scientists view Europe as not being their concern, Rose-Ackerman is very interested in what is happening on the other side of the ocean. She compared the approach to environmental pollution between the US and Germany. But developing countries can also count on her attention.

Another favourite scientific topic of hers is the fight against corruption. Which factors contribute towards corruption in certain countries, was one of her research questions. Some of her books, such as Corruption and Government: Causes, Consequences and Reform, have been translated into seventeen languages.

The question ‘how can we improve the position of the government’ is a theme throughout her work, says Faure. What should a federal government do and what should decentralized governments do? What should Brussels do, what should individual countries of the European Union do? What is the role of the judge? What is his relation to the government?  

Rose-Ackerman has an open mind, is friendly, modest and very interested in others, says Faure, who has met her on two occasions. It is extraordinary that so many people within the faculty know her: “I suggested her candidacy to the management team and everyone said immediately: we know her, she is nice. This just proves once again how broadly orientated she is.”

Professor Paul De Grauwe: very outspoken, critical and open-minded

Heading in NRC Handelsblad: “We are economizing ourselves into the ground.” Heading in Knack: “It is not Greece that is unreasonable, it’s the creditors that are unreasonable.” Two quotes from Professor Paul De Grauwe (69), an international authority on General Economics and a frequent presence in the media, who has been extremely critical about the developments in Europe, the legalisation of cannabis, the banking crisis, et cetera. On 11 January 2016, he will become an honorary doctor at Maastricht University.

Paul De Grauwe was a professor in Leuven, and very much against his wishes he had to retire. Since 2012, he has been a professor at the London School of Economics and Politics. He has numerous textbooks to his name (which are also used in Maastricht), writes scientific articles and gives many lectures. Last April, for example, he gave the first ‘Joan Muysken lecture’ in Maastricht, the topic being: Is there any point to the euro?

“He is very outspoken and critical,” says his honorary supervisor and general economist Joan Muysken. “And that is exactly what makes him so interesting. He was always an ardent supporter of the free-market ideology, but partly because of the latest economic crisis his opinions have turned. He feels that the free market does not take those who are weaker, or the environment, into consideration. And the banking crisis has shown us that the market is too strong and the government too weak.” Muysken, who has a particular affinity with his Flemish colleagues, admires De Grauwe because of the way in which he applies modern insights from Microeconomics (the individual person does not just act rationally, pessimism and optimism play a major role) in Macroeconomics. “He is very critical about European austerity policies. Implementing cuts creates poverty and pessimism, and as a result people (are able to) spend less and the crisis deepens. This way, you throw away the baby with the bathwater.”

It is De Grauwe’s fifth honorary doctorate. He will not only speak during the foundation day celebrations on 11 January. That morning he will talk at the School of Business and Economics about his career as a scientist, and in particular about the changes in his way of thinking. “One of the clever things about him is his ability to explain complicated matters in a simple way without stretching the truth. He is above the subject matter.”

Riki Janssen and Maurice Timmermans

Anniversary with (only) three honorary doctors

Three honorary doctors on Maastricht University’s anniversary. The honour falls on German pharmacologist Detlev Ganten, American legal/political scientist Susan Rose-Ackerman, and Belgian economist Paul De Grauwe.

A mere three, somewhat modest, certainly for a lustrum year – it’s the UM’s fortieth anniversary. University lustrum years used to be the opportunity to go all out, with a string of honorary doctors, from several faculties, whereas in the years in between only one faculty at a time was given a turn.

The present rector magnificus, Professor Luc Soete, put an end to that policy. “Certainly for faculties with many different elements (FHS, FHML) it took far too long before another group in the faculty had an opportunity,” he says. Under the new regime every faculty can submit candidates every year. This gave rise to five candidates in 2014; in 2015, the number was four. Initially there was considerable resistance from academic circles against the new setup (“a devaluation of the honorary doctorate,” they said), but that was partly because of the unclear communication about the plan. Soete didn’t necessarily want seven honorary doctorates every year; he merely created the possibility that every faculty could award one. “But if there is no suitable candidate, then of course you don’t do it,” he feels. The fact that there are only three this year, is because not every candidate was available, Soete reported. And the fact is that each person must actually be present at the ceremony. Or do they just not want to come? “No, it is not that people feel Maastricht is unimportant and so just don’t want to come, not at all. Some people just can’t make it. This was the case with the students’ candidate, for example. We are the only university in the Netherlands to have introduced an honorary doctorate recommended by the students in the university council. Last year, it was Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia. Unfortunately the person in question couldn’t be with us on 11 January.”

Wammes Bos

Morning lecture ‘Paul de Grauwe: the making of an economist’ on 11 January 2016, from 11:00hrs. – 13:00hrs. in H0.06, Tongersestraat 53

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