Te Beest: more than the man of the finances and bricks and mortar
Willem te Beest, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board, is retiring on 1 May. His farewell was celebrated in style in the Pieterskerk on 7 April. And, to his surprise, the celebrations included a royal decoration.
Enterprising, strategic and approachable: these are the words that came to the mind of Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker as typifying Willem te Beest. Te Beest, who has been a member of the Executive Board since 2005, took his leave in a Pieterskerk that was packed with former and current colleagues. Over the past twelve years he has carried out his responsibilities as Vice-Chairman with verve, as the glowing eulogies by the many speakers clearly showed.
Lover of academia
Karl Dittrich, Chairman of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), referred to Te Beest as a 'lover of academia, guardian of the collective of universities and the oil in the cogs of the relationship with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science'.
Since the start of his career in higher education in 1994, Te Beest has been involved in finances, real estate and ICT. His experience over these years has given him an excellent understanding of these areas, that are widely known to be 'problem portfolios', peppered with pitfalls. Colleagues praise him as one of the few true specialists in these areas in Dutch higher education.
Feeling of security
‘He gave you a feeling of security because he built in safety margins and so strengthened the solvency of Leiden University,' said Nout Wellink, former chairman of the Board of Governors. 'There was virtually nothing that the Board of Governors could add to Te Beest's work,' Welling added, smiling ruefully.
One of the areas that Te Beest has particularly championed is entrepreneurship among students. 'It is due to Te Beest that we now have HUBspot, a meeting place for young entrepreneurs,' commented alumnus and entrepreneur Wouter Bruins. He thanked Te Beest for this initiative: 'You see what a student is capable of, and you give him a helping hand. That's how plans can develop and flourish. You give students the self-confidence to achieve their ambitions.'
The different talks were interspersed with music, including a performance by Carel Kraayenhof, the bandoneon player who moved Princess Máxima to tears at her wedding to Willem-Alexander. It was a performance that Te Beest, himself an accomplished bandoneon player, clearly enjoyed. Pianist Maurice van Schoonhoven also played a number of works by Chopin, and there was even a performance by the 'Bestuursbureau choir'.
Te Beest was presented with the LUMC medal by Henk Gerla, as a mark of appreciation for the collaboration with the Leiden University Medical Center. 'We recognise and appreciate one another's strengths and are constantly finding new ways of benefitting from them.' Agnita Mur praised Te Beest for his role in supporting the regional economy in the Economie071 partnership.
Finances and bricks and mortar
‘Te Beest was the man of the finances and bricks and mortar,' commented Leiden mayor Henri Lenferink. ‘You can see that in the city. He was a driving force in the region, in such initiatives as the Bio Science Park - our ‘Pride of Leiden’ - and Economie071.’
And, as the cherry on the icing, there was also the unexpected award of a royal distinction: a visibly surprised Willem te Beest was appointed Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau. Carel Stolker submitted the application to the Royal House because, in his opinion, Te Beest 'has played a crucial role in developing and implementing many complex University projects.' Other seconders of the application praised Te Beest as ‘someone with a sense of the beauty of a classical, long-established University, who was always able to unite this with renewal and innovation.'
It's all about people
‘Ultimately, it's all about people,' said Willem te Beest, when, at the end of an afternoon of eulogies, he himself had the chance to speak. 'It is wonderful that you are all here today. Ultimately, you get back what you yourself give to others. There are many people that I can be grateful to for the fact that I am standing here today. ' He ended his speech on a note of humour: 'The best thing about Leiden University is its elegance. Criticism is almost never personal, and the reason for that is that the love of the University is always much greater than any antipathy towards the Executive Board.'
Photo top: As his colleagues and former colleagues would expect, even at his farewell celebrations, Willem te Beest had the last word.