Former ZEF International Advisory Board Chair Hans van Ginkel passed away

July 27, 2023.  


In Memorian: Professor Hans van Ginkel

It is with great sadness that we learned about the passing away of former ZEF International Advisory Board member and Chair Johannes Auguste (Hans) van Ginkel on 27 July 27, 2023 in De Bilt, Netherlands, at the age of 83. Hans van Ginkel was born in Kota Radja, Sumatra (present day Banda Aceh, Indonesia) on 22 June 1940 and a citizen of the Netherlands. 

Hans van Ginkel was first a member (2005-2006) and then Chair (2007-2014) of ZEF’s International Advisory Board. In this capacity, he was a strong spokesperson of the Center’s interests, drawing on his years-long experience and leadership at, among others, the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo. His interdisciplinary background added by a high personal commitment to the tasks at hand, but also his warmth, humor and charm, made him a pronounced and formative Board Chair. He personally engaged in the search committees of ZEF leadership that came to the agenda during his tenure. In that context he set standards by emphasizing science excellence, experience with leading graduate schools, the role of international networks, success in mobilizing funds, as well as leadership and interdisciplinary skills. With his good connections to the United Nations, Prof. van Ginkel contributed to engage ZEF early on in the emerging Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda in 2013/14. This contributed to future positioning of ZEF in the environmental dimensions of the SDGs and the agenda for ending extreme poverty and hunger, as well as the role of research for an effective implementation of the SDGs. Prof. van Ginkel served, in his function as ZEF Board chair, till the maximum term of office, and remained strongly interested in ZEF even thereafter.

Professor van Ginkel held an MSc degree (cum laude; 1968) in human and physical geography, anthropology and history and a PhD degree (cum laude; 1979) in social sciences from Utrecht University. Professor van Ginkel started his career as a teacher of geography and history at the Thomas à Kempis College, Arnhem (1965 to 1968) and then joined Utrecht University in the Faculty of Geographical Sciences (1968 to 1985). Van Ginkel was at Utrecht University from 1980, successively professor of General Social Geography, serving as dean of the former Interfaculty of Geography & Prehistory (which later merged into the Faculty of Spatial Sciences) 1981 to 1985, and became a member of the Executive Board of the University (1985). In 1986, he was appointed Rector Magnificus of Utrecht University, and during his tenure until 1997he strongly emphasized the importance of knowledge networks and advocated for strategic alliances between universities in the era of globalization.  At Utrecht University, he continued as a part-time professor until 2001. After returning from Tokyo in 2008, he accepted a visiting professorship in Sustainable urban futures at the Faculty of Geosciences.

From 1988 to 1998 he was Chair of the National Science and Technology Week, a Dutch foundation focusing on sharing information to the public, in particular the young, on recent developments in science and technology. Professor van Ginkel served as the President of the International Association of Universities (IAU) from 2000-2004. He also made significant contributions to the promotion of Education for Sustainable Development in the lead up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which included, among others, a global network of Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs) – an initiative that continues today and comprises 188 RCEs that translate global objectives for sustainability into the context of local communities. 

In 1992, Professor van Ginkel was appointed to the Social Sciences Council of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In 1994, he received a Knighthood in the Order of the Netherlands' Lion from Queen Beatrix. For his achievements, he received honorary doctorates from universities in Canada, Ghana, Romania, Slovakia and the USA. In 2001, he was appointed a member of Academia Europaea.  

Hans van Ginkel served on the governing Council of the United Nations University (UNU) from 1992 to 1997. He was appointed Rector of UNU in 1997 and served in that role until 2007. Under his leadership, UNU significantly expanded its global outreach through the addition of several new institutes.

In November 2007, Professor van Ginkel received the Japanese government’s highest award for non-Japanese nationals, the Order of the Rising Sun, for his “contribution to enhancing the international status of Japan”.  

Throughout his career, Professor van Ginkel remained a champion of interdisciplinary education, recognizing the power of geography to connect the natural and social sciences, and an advocate of “open geography”, an integrative concept of dealing with contemporary issues through interdisciplinary education. He was an active author in his fields of interest, with a number of notable books, peer-reviewed articles, and other publications to his credit. 

He is survived by his wife, Bep (nee Teepen), his son Auke, and his daughter Mapje and two grandchildren. 


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