Dr. Bernhard Eitel was awarded the title of Honorary Senator of Semmelweis University on May 13, 2024, at a ceremony held in the Salon and attended by the leaders of the university, renowned experts, colleagues, and numerous guests.

The title of Honorary Senator has been awarded only ten times since its foundation. By awarding the title, the university wishes to honor prominent national and international personalities who have served the interests of Semmelweis University to an outstanding degree over a long period of time and who have made a significant contribution to the development of the university through their personal commitment and social contacts.

Professor Eitel, who retired as rector of Heidelberg University last year, was awarded this title in recognition of his dedicated and successful work in further developing the cooperation between Semmelweis University and Heidelberg University that has existed for more than 40 years.

At the award ceremony, Dr. Béla Merkely, Rector of Semmelweis University, addressing the approximately 50 guests from Hungary and abroad, said that it was a great honor and pleasure for the university to welcome and celebrate such an outstanding expert and colleague, the former rector of the University of Heidelberg, who led the institution for 16 years. Our cooperation with the University of Heidelberg in the field of education and research spans over 40 years. The most important element of our five-year work plan, which was last renewed in 2022 and runs until 2026, is the exchange of lecturers and students between the two institutions, the rector stressed.

The renewed agreement may open up further opportunities for cooperation in addition to the existing Jellinek Harry scholarship program, in which each year six of Semmelweis University’s top students can spend 10 months doing research together in Heidelberg and Freiburg. To date, more than 100 Semmelweis students have participated in the Jellinek program in Heidelberg, the rector emphasized, adding:

I am also a former Jellinek scholarship recipient, having spent two years in Heidelberg between 1990 and 1993, where I was able to continue my research on a DAAD scholarship after the Jellinek program had ended.

In addition to the Jellinek program between the two cities, there is a lively scientific exchange between the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg and Semmelweis University. A further important forum for joint work is the Trilateral Symposium, which is held every two years as part of the cooperation between Semmelweis University, Heidelberg University, and the University of Freiburg in one of the three cities. After the welcome address and the laudation, also delivered by Dr. Béla Merkely, Professor Eitel was presented with the award and the ceremonial robe specially made for the occasion.

In his acceptance speech, Professor Eitel expressed his gratitude for the award and praised the relations between the two universities.

I am deeply honored to receive this award and will continue to be a dedicated ambassador of Semmelweis University as an Honorary Senator. Budapest is a very beautiful city and Semmelweis University is an excellent choice for future doctors. With this in mind, I hope that the cooperation will remain as intense as it has been.

“Academic connections are important, but if they are backed up by personal experience and local knowledge, they can be even more effective, sustainable, and forward-looking. This is how we can create a competitive and people-centered Europe, based on our common past, our shared values, our institutional autonomy, and the academic freedom of the individual in both research and education; we move Europe forward because through freedom we foster creativity and can shape the future for the benefit of people and ultimately for society as a whole. Together, drawing on our different traditions and perspectives, united in friendship and shaping the future with optimism, this is how we want to move forward together. This is what we have committed to, are committed to, and will continue to commit to in the future,” Professor Eitel said.

Bernhard Eitel is a world-renowned exponent of the application of geographic, geoscientific methods to archaeology. He studied geography and German language and literature at the University of Karlsruhe.

From 1989 to 1995, he worked as a research assistant at the University of Stuttgart, where he obtained his habilitation in physical geography in 1994. From 1995 to 2001, he worked as a professor at the University of Passau, and in 2001 he was appointed director of the Institute of Geography at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, where he later became vice dean and finally rector in 2007. Professor Eitel’s 16-year term of office, during which he was re-elected twice, was characterized in particular by successful applications in the Excellence Initiative and the Excellence Strategy, the founding of the Faculty of Engineering Sciences and the promotion of the Health + Life Science Alliance Heidelberg Mannheim.

Since the beginning of his career, Professor Eitel has held numerous positions in various scientific societies and committees. In addition to numerous international honors in Europe, the USA and Asia, he was awarded the French “Ordre des Palmes académiques” in 2011; in 2015, Comenius University in Bratislava awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 2019, Semmelweis University presented him with the Pro Universitate Silver Medal. In 2021, he received the Gold Medal of Charles University in Prague and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from the Japanese government.

The acceptance speech was followed by a performance of Mozart’s Flute Quartet in A major by Inken Holm, Leticia Ákontz-Kiss, Tamás Fazekas, and Emese Börcsök. The day ended with dinner in the Buda Castle District, where the guests invited were able to enjoy a delicious meal and admire the beautiful panorama of the Danube and the Hungarian capital.

Judit Szlovák – Directorate of International Relations
Translation: Dr. Balázs Csizmadia
Photos by Bálint Barta – Semmelweis University