VU University awards honorary doctorates to Herman van Rompuy, Fons Orie and Herta Flor

In recognition of their exceptional contributions to science and society

07/02/2015 | 3:54 PM

VU University will award three honorary doctorates during its next Dies Natalis, on 20 October 2015. The recipients are former politician Herman van Rompuy, judge Fons Orie and neuropsychologist Herta Flor. In their own way, each has demonstrated great social responsibility in a manner which embodies everything VU University stands for. VU University has awarded 72 honorary doctorates since 1930, to recipients including civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr, architect Rem Koolhaas and statesman Hendrik Colijn. Although diverse in their backgrounds, all in some way reflect VU University’s societal profile.

Politician inspired by ethics and philosophy
Herman van Rompuy is being awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his outstanding achievements as a politician inspired by ethics and philosophy during a career in which, among other things, he served as President of the European Council and Prime Minister of Belgium. According to his honorary supervisor, VU University Amsterdam Professor Martin van Hees, “Van Rompuy took on an important and unprecedented new role within Europe – presiding in a permanent capacity over the meetings of the EU’s government leaders – and did so in a way that seemed almost self-evident. In carrying out his duties as Belgium’s Prime Minister and as President of the European Council, he consistently demonstrated the importance of ethics in politics. The fact that this honorary doctorate is being awarded by the Faculty of Humanities and by the Department of Philosophy in particular, reinforces the significance and visibility the university has traditionally accorded philosophy in its curricula, across all its faculties.”  Van Rompuy’s work dovetails perfectly with Connected World, one of the four ‘profile themes’ through which VU University presents its academic work.

Pioneer of international criminal justice
Fons Orie is a judge with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and was formerly a justice of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. His honorary doctorate from VU University recognizes the important role he has long played in the legal field. “Back in the 1970s,” says his honorary supervisor, Elies van Sliedregt, “Fons Orie was one of the pioneers advocating the development and intensification of international criminal justice. In the Netherlands he was at the birth of this legal domain, when it was a new focal area of criminal law. An honorary doctorate for Orie continues VU University’s tradition of recognizing inspiring approaches to major issues in society. And it also reflects VU University’s own research and teaching in the field of international crimes, an important aspect of the profile theme Governance for Society.”

Huge impact in the treatment of chronic pain
Herta Flor is Professor of Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychology at the University of Heidelberg. She is being awarded an honorary doctorate by VU University for her important scientific contributions to the field of neuropsychology. “Flor’s work is having a huge impact around the theory and the treatment of chronic pain, such as lower back pain,” says her honorary supervisor, Professor Jaap van Dieën. “Her research focuses upon the role played by learning and memory processes in the brain, and the association between chronic pain and changes within the brain. This makes it important to the human movement sciences as well as neuropsychology and hence appropriate to the interdisciplinary approach to medical research adopted by VU University within the profile theme Human Health & Life Sciences.”