Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg Bids Farewell after 10 Years


RWTH bade adieu to Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg in a celebratory event

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Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg says goodbye: scenes from the farewell ceremony

In August 2008, shortly after the announcement of the University’s success in Germany’s Excellence Initiative, Professor Ernst Schmachtenberg was appointed rector of RWTH Aachen University. The competition by the federal and state governments sought to promote top-level research at selected German universities and thus to strengthen Germany as a hub of research. In 2012, which saw the second round of the competition, RWTH – now under the direction of Rector Schmachtenberg – succeeded once more in all of the three funding lines.

In 2009, RWTH was recognized in the Excellent Teaching competition for its institutional strategy "Students in Focus;” in 2015, the University received continued funding within the competition for its efforts in improving teaching and learning in the amount of over 16 million euros. Last year, RWTH received the newly established Genius Loci Award for excellence in teaching.

Over the last ten years, the University has seen substantial growth in student numbers. Between the winter semesters of 2008/09 and 2017/18, student numbers have increased from about 31,000 to more than 45,000, including 9,651 international students from 125 countries. In this period, the number of graduates has increased from 4,161 to 7,165. The RWTH Aachen Campus research campus, offering innovative forms of collaboration between the University and business and industry in research clusters, has strongly contributed to increasing RWTH’s visibility and influence.

“I was lucky to be rector during that time,” said Schmachtenberg at a celebratory event last Friday. “We have achieved a lot, and we are well positioned for the upcoming Excellence Strategy competition. All of this was only possible through the collaboration of all members of the University.” Right from the beginning of his term in office, Schmachtenberg has led the Rector’s Office together with Chancellor Manfred Nettekoven as a team.

New Rectorate Members

With the retirement of Professor Schmachtenberg, the terms in office of the vice-rectors will end as well. Current vice-rectors Doris Klee (Human Resources Management and Development), Malte Brettel (Industry and Business Relations), and Aloys Krieg (Teaching and Learning) will serve for a further term, while Rudolf Mathar (Research and Structure) will retire from the Rectorate. New team members will be Professors Ute Habel (International Affairs) and Matthias Wessling (Research and Structure).

Several speakers from within and outside the University honored the achievement of Rector Schmachtenberg’s team. Professor Stefan Kowalewski, chair of the RWTH Senate, emphasized Schmachtenberg’s skills in listening to and involving people. Students love to take selfies with him – so-called “schmelfies” – many of which were displayed in a presentation during his farewell ceremony.

An Inspiration to Students

Schmachtenberg sees a bright future for RWTH: “We just need to embrace the great opportunities in front of us: as an integrated, interdisciplinary university of technology with affiliations to Campus GmbH and thriving collaborations with our partners in place – in particular with Uniklinik RWTH Aachen and Forschungszentrum Jülich –, will be one of the most highly-sought after institutions of our twenty-first century knowledge age.”

There is no doubt: Professor Schmachtenberg will continue to play an active role at the University. Aside from supporting the University’s efforts to further expand its alumni network, he plans to contribute to RWTH's Leonardo program by holding a series of lectures on the future collaboration between human and artificial intelligence and its possible implications. Thus, he will continue to be an important contact person for the students. His role as an identification figure for the largest university group became apparent in a short filmed statement shown at the farewell ceremony: “It was great to have you at so many sports and other fun events. To see you there always inspired and motivated us.”