In memoriam: Brigit Geveling

| Jelle Posthuma

For a long time she was the centre of the department, always enthusiastic, involved and positive. Brigit Geveling worked at the UT for thirty-five years as a lecturer and bachelor coordinator of Applied Mathematics. Last week she died at the age of 63.


Two years ago Geveling said farewell to the UT. Jan Willem Polderman, who worked with her for many years as programme director of Applied Mathematics, remembers the occasion very well. ‘The reason was not at all pleasant: Brigit had been ill for some time. Her office in Zilverling had to be emptied. In this process, she came across all kinds of objects that evoke memories, that make you feel melancholic.’

‘Brigit was able to turn it into something positive. She found all kinds of relics from the past at her workplace: posters from conferences, books, photos and old dictations. Brigit decided to turn her office into a temporary museum. She stuck a nice poster ''mathematics museum'' on the door and invited students and staff to take a look. It was Brigit to the core. She always kept an eye on the beautiful things in life and knew how to turn the negative into something positive.’


In 1984 Geveling came to the UT as a lecturer. She was hired by former programme director Frank Twilt. ‘When she applied, Brigit convinced us with her passion and enthusiasm for mathematics. But also with her views on education. For Brigit, teaching mathematics was not about explaining tricks. As a teacher she wanted to pay special attention to the students. In the years that followed, she lived up to it. She took her mentoring duties very seriously. Brigit became a kind of ombudsperson for students.’ Stephan van Gils, who succeeded Twilt as programme director, also mentions her great commitment. ‘Brigit was a pillar of support for the entire organisation. She was the linchpin of the department.’

For a long time Geveling was bachelor coordinator of the Applied Mathematics programme. Lotte Weedage met her regularly as a student. ‘She was always there for you. Brigit was great as a coordinator. Very involved and above all very kind. She really cared about us.’ With good reason Geveling became an honorary member of Abacus, the study association for Applied Mathematics. Polderman: 'Brigit did not pamper students. She held up a mirror to them. They had to come up with a solution based on their own strengths, that was her approach.’

As programme director, Polderman worked with Geveling for more than eight years. ‘We made a rock-solid duo. Our goal was to improve math education at the UT. Brigit always had the students' best interests at heart. She was the educational conscience. If I had a wild idea, Brigit would sometimes give me a reserved look. That look was enough for me: we understood each other perfectly. She was not only a very good colleague, she was also a friend.’

Geveling met her husband Leo van der Wegen at the UT. They got to know each other when Van der Wegen came to the UT in 1986, where he obtained his PhD at the department of Applied Mathematics. ‘We bumped into each other regularly', Geveling told UT-Nieuws. ‘Not only at work. But also outside of work, because we lived just around the corner from each other.' In 1994 Leo and Brigit married each other. Together they got two daughters: Marieke and Saskia.

Photo: Brigit Geveling receives the Brinksma Innovation Award from former rector Thom Palstra. 

Brinksma Innovation Grant

In 2017, Geveling stepped down as bachelor coordinator. She started to concentrate more on didactics of mathematics education. In this, Geveling experimented with innovative forms of education, particularly Team Based Learning, for which she received the Brinksma Innovation Grant in 2018. ‘Students need to do their homework and come prepared to team based sessions, otherwise they won’t be able to fully participate,' she explained to U-Today in 2018. Her lectures started with multiple-choice tests. When students finished this test, they were divided into groups to discuss and find the right answers. 'These discussions are wonderful to see,' Geveling said. 'It's great to see students talking about mathematics and learning from each other.'

‘She saw the strength of Team Based Learning,’ says Polderman. ‘She was an expert on the subject, and could have obtained a PhD, or at least could have published about it. But Brigit would only do that if it would benefit mathematics education in general, not for her own career. But make no mistake: she was certainly ambitious.’


In 2019, Geveling said goodbye to the UT. She had had that horrible diagnosis for some time: cancer. 'Brigit didn't want a reception with obligatory drinks and snacks,' Polderman knows. ‘That's why it became a cultural evening with ballet, singing, music and poetry.’ At Applied Mathematics, Brigit was often the driving force behind similar musical evenings for staff and students. Student Lotte Weedage also attended the evening. 'We did a little performance. Jan Willem played the piano, I played the violin and Brigit sang. While she was singing, Brigit cleaned up her room as an act. She visibly enjoyed the performance.’

‘The occasion was sad, but there was nothing sad about the evening,’ Van Gils remembers. ‘It was an incredibly beautiful summer evening. Brigit beamed throughout the whole gathering. She was the centre of the evening.’ Weedage: 'A lot of tears were shed. But that was because she left the university. I never noticed that she was burdened by her illness. Brigit always remained cheerful, even that evening.’

Polderman wholeheartedly agrees. ‘She continued to do a lot of activities. Because of her positive attitude you also forgot the situation yourself. That is why her death came as a shock. Brigit celebrated life to the last moment. She was a master in the art of living.’

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