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Royal honour for emeritus professor Willem Otterspeer

Emeritus professor Willem Otterspeer received a royal honour from mayor Henri Lenferink on Tuesday 20 September. The university historian was appointed Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

Otterspeer was surprised with the honour during the presentation of his new book De stad, de dood en de dichters (The City, Death and the Poets). In the book he mixes his love of the University and poetry with autobiographical reflections.

Otterspeer has been associated with Leiden University since 1979 and was appointed Professor of University History in 1997. As a researcher, lecturer and supervisor, he sparked the enthusiasm of generations of students for the long and prestigious history of the oldest university in the country.

As a professor he took on the task of writing the history of the first four centuries of Leiden University. He completed this project in 2021 with the publication of the fourth volume of the Groepsportret met dame (Group Portrait with Lady) series. As a university historian he also advised the Executive Board of Leiden University on the past, identity and direction of the University.

After retiring in 2016, Otterspeer has remained very active and published Het horzelnest (the Hornet’s Nest) in 2019, a book about Leiden University and the Second World War. He is now working on a new book on the history of universities.

His ongoing commitment to the Dutch intellectual climate in general and the arts in particular is evident from the numerous roles he has held. For example, for many years he was a member of the board of directors of the Praemium Erasmianum foundation, was an editor and later on the editorial board of literary journal De Gids, on the supervisory board of the National Museum of Antiquities and the supervisory board of the Dutch Foundation for Literature.


Photo: Marc de Haan

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