Jan van der Haar, WUR’s ‘own’ historian, passed away at the end of March aged 91. He wrote the three-volume standard work on the history of Wageningen University, De geschiedenis van de Landbouwuniversiteit Wageningen.
Jan van der Haar was born on 20 January 1927 in Utrecht. In 1965, he left his job as a history teacher in Winterswijk to come and work for the Agricultural College, initially as an administrator and later as the student dean. However, he achieved acclaim mainly as a historian. In 1986, the Agricultural College’s board asked Van der Haar to write a history of the institution for the upcoming 75th anniversary.
This assignment became Van der Haar’s magnum opus. He was given an office in the Jan Kopshuis, a building on Generaal Foulkesweg that has since been demolished, plus an assistant — the archivist Max de Ruiter. ‘I would visit him at least once a week to deliver documents and discuss things,’ recalls De Ruiter. ‘Van der Haar was a friendly man and very conscientious in his work.’
Although Van der Haar was given plenty of time — until 1993 — it gradually became clear that he was not going to make the deadline. He eventually wrote the first two volumes. Emeritus professor of Economic History Joop Faber (University of Amsterdam) authored the third volume.
There will be a follow-up to Van der Haar and Faber’s work this year. Volume 4 of the history of WUR, written by the journalists Martijn de Groot and Joost van Casteren, is due to appear soon.