Professor Anne van den Ban has been knighted in the order of Oranje Nassau. He received the decoration on Thursday morning in the aula.
But then it was the turn of the ex-professor of Agricultural Extension to be in the limelight. The mayor of Wageningen Geert van Rumund addressed Van den Ban and pinned on his lapel the decoration which signifies his knighthood. The honour was bestowed on Van den Ban in recognition of his scientific work and his contribution to society.
Van den Ban was the founder of agricultural extension as an academic discipline in the Netherlands. In 1964, he became professor of Agricultural Extension and built up his department into one of the biggest at the university (then still an agricultural college). In 1983, he resigned in order to work in developing countries as an advisor.
Rector Martin Kropff sang Van den Ban's praises, calling him 'one of our scientific heroes' and one of 'our university's shining examples'. 'What is more, the Anne van den Ban fund is far and away the most successful fund we have. Both in terms of the number of students it helps and in terms of the number of sponsors.'
Van den Ban started his fund in 1992 when he was working in Tanzania. 'To give something back since I didn't have to pay any income tax', says the 84-year-old professor.
The fund enables promising students from developing countries to come to Wageningen to take a Master's course. There are currently 45 students receiving support from the fund.
Since 2005, the fund has worked together with the Wageningen University Fund and now has more than 700 sponsors. 'And that is not nearly enough', says Van den Ban. This year alone, 270 people came knocking at its doors in search of support. That is far more than the available budget of almost 200,000 euros can cope with.
According to Van den Ban, Wageningen University could do a lot more work on development aid. 'I have read the new strategic plan. The word poverty is only mentioned once in it.' And that is not right, he thinks. He feels the university should make more effort to reduce the gap between rich and poor.
One way of doing this would be to reward chair groups for writing textbooks, suggests Van den Ban. He is referring here to his own bestsetter, An Introduction to Agricultural Extension, published in 1973 and translated into 13 languages. Van den Ban: 'We think it's important that research results are applied. That is why there are bonuses for good research and good education. But if you do something for other countries, you get nothing.'