Thom Palstra wishes UT a ‘buen camino’ at Dies Natalis

| Jelle Posthuma

Thom Palstra passed on the rectorate to Tom Veldkamp on Friday during the 59th Dies Natalis. This year the Dies was almost entirely online, a unique event in the history of the UT. However, a mix of pre-recorded footage and live discussions made for an interesting afternoon.


The theme of this year’s Dies ceremony, in honor of the 59th birthday of the university, was ‘Let's get Weaving’. The afternoon started with the introduction of our two student hosts, Vincent Kroeze and Jaap Eijsker. From the storage room of the Vrijhof, right next to the room where the official program took place, they provided the online audience with some comic and ‘studentikoos’ relief.

After the streamed gaudeamus igitur by Cnødde, the official program could begin. In his opening speech Thom Palstra explained why this year's theme was 'Let's get Weaving'. ‘In this pandemic, it is good to reflect on the core values of our university and our role in society. Our university was founded in a region that once flourished because of its textiles industry.’ Hence the term 'Let's get Weaving'.

The theme recurred in a more abstract sense throughout table discussions on three different themes, presented by Thom Palstra and Manouk Ramselaar of the Student Union. Talent, society and the ecosystem were the main courses of the three discussions. Afterwards, each participant was invited to give a suggestion to the new rector, Tom Veldkamp. The most tangible tip came from Tanya Bondarouk, professor Human Resource Management and Technology. ‘Give two hours per week to everyone in our university for personal development’, she said.

This was followed by the ceremony of the annual prizes and awards, presented by Wilma van Ingen and Eddy van Hijum. Again, this was done almost entirely with pre-recorded dialogues. Thom Palstra, who had a leading role in the live Dies program, talked to the winners afterwards via a video call. Special attention was given to Marina van Damme: the UT named an apple orchard after her.

The second part of the Dies was about to begin (the rector and his successor put on their gowns). But first there was a farewell interview by Maaike Platvoet, the editor-in-chief of U-Today. ‘Will we ever see you again?’, she asked Palstra. ‘This is not a farewell’, he responded. ‘I will become a professor of Solid State Chemistry at the UT. So you will see me again!’

Online attendees were invited to leave a message. This was eagerly used. Several thanks and success wishes to Thom and Tom found their way to the chat. Meanwhile a video was shown of the official ceremony, in an ghostly empty Waaier building. 'Salve rector magnifice iterumque salve (greetings, rector magnificus, greetings again)', were the words of Palstra to his successor Veldkamp.

After the ceremony the audience returned to the interview by Maaike Platvoet, this time with the new rector Tom Veldkamp. ‘I’m honored to be your new rector’, he said. ‘But it will be a challenge to make everything work, especially in these Covid-times. I hope to achieve this as both an ambassador and a connector.’

After these words, the limited afterparty was about to begin, but not before Thom Palstra addressed the audience with a final ‘buen camino!’ (good journey).

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