UvA kicks off first Medallion Day with six awards

University of Amsterdam

The UvA has started a new tradition: the annual Medallion Day. On this day each year, the UvA will award Honorary Medallions to individuals who have made a special contribution to the university. At the first Medallion Day, which took place on Friday, 25 June, there were six laureates: Arnold Smeulders, Wil van Zijl-Barbe, Tom Verhoek, Arne Brentjes, Willem Bouten and Marcel Levi. Rector Magnificus Karen Maex presented them with their Honorary Medallions during a festive, small-scale gathering at ‘De Brug’ on the Roeterseiland Campus.


The UvA Honorary Medallion winners 2021

‘The laureates are six very different people working in different fields of activity, but they have important similarities,’ explains president of the Executive Board, Geert ten Dam. ‘They all do their work with great passion and commitment. Moreover, all six of them are connectors, bridge-builders, who are not afraid to think outside the box. People like them are invaluable to the university and make the UvA the UvA. The laureates’ commitment and achievements have been extraordinary. By awarding them with UvA Honorary Medallions, we want to demonstrate our appreciation to everyone.’

The winners

Arnold Smeulders, emeritus professor of Computer Vision at the Faculty of Science

Smeulders is an inspiration to many in computer science and AI, but above all he is a pioneer. He has played a crucial role in the success of the Informatics Institute and the very strong research portfolio that the UvA has in the fields of AI, Computational Science, Data Science, and Systems and Networking. He was far ahead of his time in pioneering public-private partnerships in ICT and was at the forefront of the COMMIT programme and the ICAI. In the field of research valorisation, Smeulders played an important role in bringing a highly successful start-up – EUVision – to fruition. This resulted in QUVA, the very first ICAI lab. As emeritus professor, Smeulders is still active and an ambassador for the ELLIS network, a European network that connects the best AI ecosystems in Europe.

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Wil van Zijl-Barbe, head of Internal Services at the Roeterseiland Campus Facility Services department

Van Zijl-Barbe is a vital link on the Roeterseiland campus, for staff and students alike. With her unflagging commitment and decisiveness, she is someone who gets things done – for the UvA, but especially for people. Together with her team, she keeps the facilities service running smoothly and takes numerous initiatives. These include cooperating with companies and institutions in the surrounding area to reduce waste and manage it sustainably. She is the driving force behind the successful apprenticeship programme set up between the UvA and Pantar, which enables people who might otherwise struggle in the labour market to gain work experience. Some 100 Pantar employees have completed the programme within the UvA. Van Zijl-Barbe also succeeded in bringing the Amsterdam Light Festival to the UvA, thereby raising the UvA’s profile through light art.

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Tom Verhoek, Buildings and Facilities Policy Adviser at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Verhoek is another well-known name on the Roeterseiland campus. He has devoted himself to the UvA with heart and soul for many years. For example, he managed the complicated process of moving the FMG to the REC. His most recent achievements include the transformation of ‘De Brug’ into a multifunctional representative space, the realisation of a health centre for students and staff on the campus, and the preparations for a sports centre in the basement of REC-B. There are numerous projects that can be largely attributed to Verhoek and which make the campus, and therefore the UvA, increasingly beautiful, better and more complete. In addition, Verhoek has been the first point of contact for FMG study associations for many years, defending their interests inside and outside the faculty.

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Arne Brentjes, former head of the Institutional Research department and, until recently, secretary of the Supervisory Board of the UvA

Brentjes has been indispensable to the strategic direction of the UvA. With his vast knowledge of higher education and research, and of the UvA in particular, and his careful analyses and interpretations, Brentjes has assisted the Board in numerous matters – from the housing plan and making the organisation more transparent to the alliance between AMC and VUmc. He knew better than anyone how to link the UvA’s strategy to the world outside, always prioritising content. A fine example of this was the UvA’s institutional plan. Without Brentjes, this ambitious plan would not have been possible. Supervisory authorities could also depend on Brentjes, who also held the position of secretary to the UvA Supervisory Board and was a member of the Supervisory Board of the UvA-affiliated Duitsland Instituut.

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Willem Bouten, emeritus professor of Computational biogeography and Physical Geography at the Faculty of Science

Like Smeulders, Bouten is a pioneer. With the bird-tracking system UvA-BiTS, which he initiated, developed and drove, he has established an unparalleled ornithological research infrastructure which has changed and enriched the research landscape with regard to bird science and ecology, putting the UvA on the international map. He also pioneered interdisciplinarity: in his own research, but also with his efforts in transforming the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics and in developing the Future Planet Studies Bachelor’s programme. In so doing, he played a major role in promoting interdisciplinarity at the UvA, an approach that is essential for solving complex social issues.

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Marcel Levi, former chair of the AMC Executive Board and former dean of the Faculty of Medicine, professor of Medicine at the UvA and chair of the Dutch Research Council (NWO)

Levi is an all-rounder: teacher, scientist, doctor, administrator and opinion leader. His great commitment to the university dates back to the time when he was a medical student at the UvA and became president of the MFAS study association. Vision is also one of Levi’s greatest strengths. A good example of this is the alliance between the former AMC and VUmc that he initiated, resulting in the Amsterdam UMC. Everything Levi does, he does with excellence. This makes him a role model for everyone and a great ambassador for our university.

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About the UvA Honorary Medallions

The Honorary Medallion is intended for people of all positions, backgrounds and disciplines, from all layers of the UvA. Individuals who are not employed by the UvA may also be eligible for the Honorary Medallions. Nominations for an Honorary Medallion can be submitted by any member of UvA staff. Based on the nominations, the UvA Honorary Medallions Committee, chaired by Agneta Fischer (dean of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences), advises the Executive Board on the awards.

UvA Medallion Day 2022 is planned for next spring.

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