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Their first time in the procession

Portraits of six Leiden professors for whom 8 February 2016 was the first time that they took part in the procession of Leiden professors at the Dies Natalis.

Hein Verspaget

Hein Verspaget, Professor of Biobanking 

‘At our Dies Natalis we are celebrating that we are a bastion of freedom, and what we as a university do for people – for the local people in Leiden and for the broader population of the Netherlands. The Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) works towards better care, and making a contribution to improving health. This university was a gift to the citizens of Leiden, and with our research we, too, have a lot to offer the city. It is a day to celebrate. I come from the south and I could have been celebrating Carnival today, but this is much more enjoyable and much more important.’ 






Annemarie Meijer

Annemarie Meijer, Professor of Immunobiology

‘I had my inaugural lecture in the Academy Building in September, with both my parents – who are in their nineties – present. It was a very special occasion. Like this Dies celebration, it is a wonderful academic tradition. You meet everyone here – I just spoke to a colleague from the LUMC that I want to ask to be a member of a PhD committee. Our research focuses on immune mechanisms that combat tuberculosis. My ambition is to develop new treatments for this illness, as an alternative for antibiotics for people who have built up a resistance to them.’






Anske van der Bom

Anske van der Bom, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in particular transfusion medicine 

‘It is important to celebrate the Dies together, to show where you belong. There is a very good atmosphere among professors in Leiden; on a day like today it’s very warm and friendly and colleagues are always open for contact. And the Academy Building is such an impressive place. I had my inaugural lecture here a year ago; it’s so special – the only time in your life that you are allowed to stand on that podium in the Great Auditorium.’  







Pauline Schuyt

Pauline Schuyt,  Professor of Penal Law and Sentencing

‘I’ve attended previous Dies celebrations as a member of the Faculty Board, but this feels very different. When you walk with the other professors in the procession, you really do feel a part of a much bigger whole. And it’s a kind of reunion, because you meet lots of people you know but don’t see very often. We all make jokes about who’s allowed to walk at the head of the procession this time; the sequence changes every year. It really is an occasion for wearing your robe, something I also do in my role as judge. I particularly like that moment when you put on your robe; it’s a time for contemplation. It makes you very aware of what you are about to do.’





David Fontijn

David Fontijn, Professor of the Archaeology of Early Europe

‘You can see the Dies as a kind of puppet show, but as an archaeologist I’m particularly aware of the historical connections: the link with the city, the fact that we walk in a long procession from the Academy Building over the bridge and through the narrow street towards the Pieterskerk. This my first time of wearing my robe, so I’m also wondeing whether my cap is on straight.  It feels like a rite of passage, a transition ritual. I’m in a new role in a familiar environment.’







Martine Jager

Martine Jager, Professor of Ophthalmology in particular eye melanoma

‘41 years ago I attended the Dies as a first-year student, when the University was celebrating its 400th anniversary and I helped with the organisation. Now I’m attending for the first time as a professor. I think it’s magnificent; it really is part of expressing who we are. I refer to myself as a kind of travel office: I bring researchers from abroad to Leiden and organise for Leiden researchers to spend time working internationally. The chain I am wearing is from the International Academy for Opthalmology. I was at a conference in Mexico last week; everyone there thinks it’s fantastic when you tell them that your university has existed since 1575, Americans in particular, whose whole country hasn’t been in existence that long.’


(MH/Photography: Marc de Haan)


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