Three big birthdays this autumn for former vice-chancellors
During the autumn of 2021, three former vice-chancellors of Uppsala University will each be having ‘decade’ birthdays. In total, all of 230 years of life being celebrated.
In September, Stig Strömholm will turn 90 years old, Bo Sundqvist will turn 80 years old, and in December Eva Åkesson will turn 60 years old. Taken together, they have served as vice-chancellors of Uppsala University for about a quarter of a century. Here are some of the highlights from that history.
An organisation like Uppsala University is of course never static and many matter persist over a long period in various ways. A clear example is the Ångström Laboratory. During Stig Strömholm’s term of office as Vice-Chancellor, a decision was made to build the Ångström Laboratory, and in 1997, the same year that Bo Sundqvist took up office as Vice-Chancellor, the Ångström Laboratory was officially opened. During Eva Åkesson’s time as Vice-Chancellor, the decision was made to expand the Ångström Laboratory, the University’s biggest construction project to date. The expansion of the Ångström Laboratory will soon be completed and its grand opening will take place during the current Vice-Chancellor Anders Hagfeldt’s term of office. At the time of writing, planning is in full swing for this grand opening on 13 May 2022.
Stig Strömholm will turn 90 on 16 September. He was Vice-Chancellor from 1989 to 1997. Stig Strömholm’s doctorate was in comparative jurisprudence.
During Stig Strömholm’s time as Vice-Chancellor, a number of older endowments to the University were transformed into foundations. This put an end to a dispute with the Swedish State making it clear that the endowments and the proceeds from them were not general public property but were to go to the objects intended by these endowments, which included research and students.
During Stig Strömholm’s time as Vice-Chancellor, a major refurbishment of the University's premises was initiated – work that was then further developed and carried out with Bo Sundqvist as Vice-Chancellor.
Three disciplinary domains
Bo Sundqvist will turn 80 years old on 21 September, and he was Vice-Chancellor from 1997 to 2006. Bo Sundqvist defended his doctoral thesis in nuclear physics.
Based on a proposal from Bo Sundqvist, the current overarching organisation with three disciplinary domains, three vice-rectors, three disciplinary domain boards, and three faculty offices was decided on in 1998.
It was also during Bo Sundqvist’s time as Vice-Chancellor that a more coherent structure to support research funding, alumni contacts and fundraising was established.
During his term as Vice-Chancellor, major refurbishments of the University’s premises were carried out – a project that began under Stig Strömholm.
Quality assurance, talent attraction, internationalisation, infrastructure
Eva Åkesson will turn 60 years old on 30 December, and was Vice-Chancellor from 2012 to 2020. She defended her doctoral thesis in chemical physics and became the University's first female vice-chancellor.
During Eva Åkesson’s term of office, the University’s Development Plan 2050 was implemented – a comprehensive plan for the future of the University’s physical environment. It was also during Eva Åkesson’s time as vice-chancellor that it was decided to construct the Segerstedt building, a new construction to house the University Administration.
When Eva Åkesson was inaugurated as Vice-Chancellor, she laid the foundations for the strategic priorities that remained in focus throughout her term of office: quality assurance, talent attraction and career systems, internationalisation, and infrastructure. Other important matters were the role of the University in the community at large and forms of management and control within the University.
All of these are matters that remain very much on the agenda, and perhaps are most clearly expressed by the University’s current goals and strategies, which were developed and decided on while Eva Åkesson was Vice-Chancellor.
A portrait of the outgoing vice-chancellor of the University being painted by an artist is a University tradition. The tradition began around the turn of the last century when the office of Vice-Chancellor changed and began to extend over a number of years. Previously vice-chancellors had held office for only short periods. Jan von Bonsdorff, professor in art history, writes in “Rektorer vid Uppsala universitet och deras porträtt” (Vice-Chancellors of Uppsala University and their portraits): “The new form of vice-chancellorship also required a new staging with representative spaces and interior design. The University Main Building, which was completed in 1887, came to form the exterior frames of the vice-chancellor portraits.” The vice-chancellor portraits are hung in the Vice-Chancellor’s office in the University Main Building.
The illustration for this article shows three portraits of the former vice-chancellors who are celebrating big birthdays this autumn. Artist Olle Hamngren painted Stig Strömholm, Bo Larsson painted Bo Sundqvist and Olle Hamngren painted Eva Åkesson.
Chosen by chance
Before Stig Strömholm was elected to be Vice-Chancellor he was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor under Vice-Chancellor Martin H:son Holmdahl during his term of office. The election of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1978 was a bit different from the ordinary, as it was conducted by secret ballot in the University Board with two candidates for the post of Deputy Vice-Chancellor. The vote ended up being a tie, and this was possible because the University Board consisted of an even number of members.
In that situation, drawing lots was used to decide the matter. The youngest member of the University Board, a pharmacy student, got the rather unenviable task of drawing one of two lots which fell to Stig Strömholm, who thus became the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
Move across the street
When Bo Sundqvist became Vice-Chancellor, he chose to move across the street. In other words, he started using an office in the University Administration which was then located on Sankt Olofsgatan across the street from the University Main Building. A new tradition that the vice-chancellors who came after Bo Sundqvist have kept up. Previous vice-chancellors had used only the office designated for the Vice-Chancellor in the University Main Building.
Links to more reading
- Register of Uppsala University Vice-Chancellors
- Book: Rektorer vid Uppsala universitet och deras porträtt (Vice-Chancellors at Uppsala University and their portraits). Not available in English.
- "Uppsala universitet inför 2000-talet", (Uppsala University approaching the 21st century), Festschrift honouring Stig Strömholm, not available in English.
- "Ledarskap i förändring", (Leadership is changing), Festschrift honouring Bo Sundqvist, not available in English.
- "Frihet, kollegialitet, studentinflytande. Uppsala universitet under Eva Åkessons rektorat 2012–2020", (Freedom, comradeship, student influence. Uppsala University under Eva Åkersson’s Vice-Chancellorship 2012–2020), Festschrift honouring Eva Åkesson, not available in English.
- Utvecklingsplan 2050, (Development plan 2050). Not available in English.
- Uppsala University’s goals and strategies
- Inside the new building at Ångström Laboratory (news item of 16 September 2020)