Captains of Industry - their stories
Founder of East-West Seed and the World Food Prize Laureate 2019, Honorary doctorate at the University of the Philippines (received in 2019), Honorary doctorate of Naresuan University Thailand (received in 2011)
My graduation was in spring of 1956, from what was then still called the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (NEH). As marketing director of our family seed business Sluis & Groot (now Sygenta), I had noticed the poverty of smallholder farmers in South East Asia and their need for high-quality seed to increase their productivity and income. It wasn’t until ten years later, in the days of Professor Kuhlmeyer, that I recognized the importance of a more comprehensive understanding of B2B Farmer Marketing which, during my 35 years in seeds in the South-East Asian market, turned out to be the dominant factor for the development of the seed market. Now, East-West Seed serves over 19 million farmers, providing direct access to food to hundreds of millions of people and adding billions of dollars to “income” of small farmers.
From a continuity point of view, let me add that our eldest son Rutger Groot followed in my footsteps. He is now the President of the Knowledge Transfer Foundation of East-West Seed, a non-profit Farmer Extension program for tropical vegetable farming in SE-Asia and Africa.
Rutger is also an Erasmus alumnus, RSM Bedrijfskunde 1992, after studying Business at University of Buckingham UK in 1986.
Read more here.
Entrepreneur, Former CEO of Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij
I moved to Rotterdam from a small town in North Limburg in 1993. I started out as an Econometrics student. Later on, I switched to the Business Economics programme at Erasmus School of Economics. As can be gathered from my year of graduation, it took me a respectable 11 years to obtain my degree. Fortunately, this was not – or rather, not only – due to my enjoying student life to the full. Rather, my activities in this period have had an impact on my life to this very day: I actually launched my career as an entrepreneur while I was still a student.
I thank my time in the Econometrics programme (of which I only rounded off the first year) for my special interest in data analysis. It has allowed me to set up the specific, data-driven operational management structure that – in my humble opinion – is vital for an organisation that serves such a large number of customers as NLE. Nevertheless, I remember feeling somewhat frustrated by econometrists’ attempts to capture psychological processes in an abstract formula – with disruptive effect. Because that was my key ‘take-away’ from the degree programme that I did round off eventually: that human behaviour – which generally speaking cannot be considered rational – plays a crucial role in day-to-day economics.
I became a member of the student association Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps (RSC) in the very first year of my studies. It marked the start of a terrific period in my life. I cherish the memory of the countless hours I spent flat out on the couch in my student house – which has long since been declared unfit for habitation. It prepared me for the period that followed, in which there would be no more opportunity to slack off.
After graduating, I have always stayed in touch with Professor Willem Verbeke, who was my thesis supervisor. When he invited me to lecture in his Sales Leadership programme at the EUR-affiliated Institute for Sales and Account Management a few years ago, I didn’t think twice. It’s wonderful to be able to share my own experiences in a setting so familiar to me.
And finally, for those existing and prospective students reading these testimonials who are considering going into business during or after their studies: don’t hesitate. I can sincerely recommend it. Erasmus School of Economics will provide you with the foundation you need to start with confidence – just like I did. And, stay ‘Rotterdam’ about it: don’t take yourself too seriously…
Lid van het College van Gedeputeerde Staten van Zuid Holland, Deputy Mayor responsible for the Port, Traffic and Regional Economic Affairs, Municipality of Rotterdam 2010-2014
“Coming from Den Helder, after studying at the nearby University of Applied Sciences, Erasmus School of Economics formed my first real taste of student life in Rotterdam. And I have to say, for a few years, I really dedicated myself to the student lifestyle. In addition to being a member of the Rotterdamsch Studenten Gezelschap (RSG), I was a particularly enthusiastic member of the Erasmus Debating Society. This gave me wonderful opportunities to combine more practical pursuits with the student life. I still have a lot of friends from those times, and I learned a great deal about presentation and argumentation. I represented the Debating Society both nationally and internationally. It definitely broadened my horizons in a number of ways. Ultimately, I earned my master’s degree in Economics in 2002. In my view, there’s nothing wrong with studying for a relatively long period, as long as you never give up and make sure to finish what you’ve started. Because what ultimately counts in a great many fields is whether or not you’ve graduated.
Ultimately, my time as an Erasmus School of Economics student has strengthened my common-sense side and pragmatic approach. And these are qualities that serve you well when you’re appointed as Deputy Mayor. Another thing I’ve noticed is that the EUR network is very large. A lot of people have studied here, and this makes it easier to gain ‘rapport’ when you first meet.
Fortunately, you can see more and more students staying to work in Rotterdam after graduating from EUR. This hasn’t always been the case. As an EUR student, I suspect you never lose your love for this great town. So what could be nicer than actually living here, in a lovely house, and working for the Municipality or in the port? In a financial, economic or legal job, for example; or in strategic logistics, marketing or international trade. You can find everything here! This isn’t necessarily something today’s students are aware of. So my advice would be: take a closer look at what the port can offer you. It’s a dynamic, international world of its own – right here in the world city of Rotterdam.”
Director of TEAMPLAY
“I’m an alumnus of the Erasmus School of Economics Business Administration and Economics programme. The thing that strikes me most is how I still apply lessons learned during the lectures on an almost daily basis. There’s also the awareness that at the end of the day, in order to gain insight into fundamental developments, you are required to understand many of the dynamics of the business world at a higher level of abstraction. In that sense, not only the seminars proved very useful, but also the foundation laid in the general Economics subjects, and even in statistics and math. Looking back on this period, I can become a bit wistful thinking how much time you had to really get to the bottom of something. Incidentally, as an active member of SSR-R, I had enough ‘lighter chores’ to handle – as well as pleasant distractions – in addition to my studies. You could say that in many senses, my time in Rotterdam has enriched my life.
After graduating, I started putting my newly-acquired knowledge to practice as an advisor at Boer & Croon, among other firms. It is no coincidence that Erasmus School of Economics produces such a large number of independent and enterprising people. And I continued on this path, in the conviction that you can always contribute to the realisation of new ideas and organisations’ further improvement. And do it the Rotterdam way: ‘actions speak louder than words’. For years now, I have been involved in strengthening the Erasmus School of Economics alumni culture on the side, through my chairmanship of the Maurits reunion association on behalf of SSR-R. As you can see: you never truly leave Rotterdam and Erasmus University behind.”
CFO KPN, Former Minister of Finance 2010-2012
“I consciously chose to study in Rotterdam. That is why – although slightly older than most after completing a bachelor programme elsewhere – I immediately joined the student association Laurentius. There, I was an active member of the Gladio year club and still regularly see many friends I made in those years. I enjoyed the depth that I acquired during my Economics study, which helped form a solid scientific foundation. As well as the ‘enterprising’ nature of students here in Rotterdam. Both aspects have been very useful to me in my work. Economics expertise is a basic requirement, not merely for entrepreneurs – since of course, ‘all things economic’ play an important role in that line of work – but also when you’re Minister of Finance. Otherwise, there would be no point in even accepting that position.
My tips: make the very most of your time studying here. In other words, when it comes to marks: don’t settle for the bare minimum. Get good results and be sure to work on your ‘extracurricular’ development: for example, by becoming an active member of a student association, or by starting your own company!”
CEO of Bavaria
I look back with tremendous pleasure on my time as a student in Rotterdam. My Economics teacher in secondary school spoke with a great deal of enthusiasm about the Econometrics degree programme in Rotterdam. According to him, the best economists graduated from that programme. Furthermore, Rotterdam plays a pioneering role in the field of Econometrics. After all, one of the founders of Econometrics was the Rotterdam professor Tinbergen, who was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1969. An easy decision, in other words. The programme turned out to be a real knockout competition, since many people don’t realise that the curriculum is rather mathematical and abstract. But the convergence of math and economics was precisely the kind of thing I was interested in, so fortunately I made it to the finish line. My thesis supervisor was the present Dean of Erasmus School of Economics, Professor Philip Hans Franses. He was able to explain highly abstract econometric models to students in a very interesting way, so that everything became easier to understand. But above all, he was able to make students enthusiastic about solving economic questions with mathematical models. This turned Econometrics into a pragmatic discipline, with many practical applications.
Rotterdam offered me a lot more besides my studies. The city itself is a wonderful place to live for a few years. It’s a very inspiring mix of a ‘working city’, an international port and a student town. As a student, you get the feeling that even though you’re still studying, you’re very close to reality – the ‘nuts and bolts’ of everyday life. The Rotterdam mentality is something that stays with you for the rest of your life: ‘actions speak louder than words’. It comes as no surprise that a lot of entrepreneurs have roots in Rotterdam.
My membership of the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps (RSC) had a decisive impact on my time as a student. I think you can safely call the RSC the Netherlands’ most enterprising student association. I can trace an enormous number of my friendships today to that time. You get to know a lot of people in a short period via your year club, house or debating society. You build up a very valuable network for the rest of your life – both professionally and for your private life. I founded a house for the association in Rotterdam, I was active in a number of RSC committees, but I also served on the Erasmus School of Economics Faculty Council on behalf of the RSC. In addition, I had a fair amount of part-time jobs to make sure that I had enough money to spend as a student. For example, I worked for a number of years as a student recruiter for Ebbinge & Company, and as a student assistant for the Erasmus Food Management Institute. I also have very fond memories of my experiences abroad during a summer course at Michigan State University, a Unilever internship in Vietnam and a study trip to Peru. Actually, Rotterdam offers anything you could wish for, as long as you take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves!
In short: my time in Rotterdam was very valuable to me and a great deal of fun. I studied hard, but I definitely also learned a lot and I enjoyed the city’s rich social scene.
Chief Customer Officer and co-owner of Jumbo Supermarkets
“I had a fantastic time in Rotterdam. My strongest memories are about lectures held by Professor Bunt, who together with Professor Kuhlmeijer is responsible for introducing Marketing as a subject at EUR. As well as the lectures by Ed Peelen. It was an extremely educational programme, and very varied as well: everything from Marketing, Law to International Trade.
One of the things I particularly liked about the study is that you had a lot of freedom to make your own planning. It was pleasant because you were expected to do other things on the side in connection with the required hands-on work experience. This experience and the programme curriculum are still of great use to me in my present position as CCO and co-owner of Jumbo Supermarkets. I have one tip of advice for my successors: make the very most of the opportunities that come your way, and be sure to study abroad at some point in the programme. I went to Russia, Curacao and Michigan, and I learned a great deal from these experiences. Because studying abroad will help you to develop as a person which can be the prove of immense value in your future career.
I have been an active member of Laurentius, and I still see fellow members of my year club almost every 2 months. On top of that, I’m actually still involved in Erasmus School of Economics as an ambassador.
Serial Entrepreneur, Co-Founder Picnic
“Rotterdam is a fantastic starting point for your career. At Erasmus School of Economics, I laid the groundwork for various competences that have served me well in later years. A solid foundation in Economics, with the associated analytical skills. The typical Rotterdam attitude of ‘less talk, more action’ was an added bonus. The two-phase Bachelor/Master structure marked the end of the ‘eternal student’, but it didn’t prevent you from playing an active part in student life.
My membership of the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps led to great friendships, and as a saxophone player in the Hermes House Band, we even brought culture to Rotterdam. I financed all these activities with a part-time job as EUR student assistant. And on top of that, I even managed to graduate! After this, I fulfilled my national service as an officer in the Royal Netherlands Air Force, and then started my career at ExxonMobil. My academic and corporate educations actually converge in my current activities as an entrepreneur (including companies like Tango and Route Mobiel) and my participations in various early stage companies. Coaching young entrepreneurs allows me to disseminate the knowledge I acquired in Rotterdam even further, and I regularly visit the alma mater to hold a guest lecture or as a member of the Advisory Board of the Holland Program on Entrepreneurship HOPE. Entrepreneurship is an important, constantly-expanding field, and Erasmus School of Economics owes it to itself to keep playing a leading role in this context.”
Chair of The Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM)
When I was in secondary school, the political debate was dominated by the power struggle between Den Uyl and Wiegel. I thought it was quite exciting.
I decided to study Economics, since money often plays an important role in politics. Of course, I did opt for general Economics, while your average Rotterdam student enrolled in Business Economics. Later on, I also studied Business Administration in addition to Economics. This combination laid an excellent foundation for my future career at the Ministry of Finance – you’re not only expected to outline the various policy options; but also how they can be realised.
I continue to benefit from the knowledge I acquired as a student at Erasmus University every day – from employment market economics to exchange rates; from macroeconomics to budgetary policy. In addition, the Rotterdam no-nonsense approach has always appealed to me. I still live in Rotterdam, and in my day-to-day work, a straightforward, fact-based approach proves to be most effective.
Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to India, former Director-General Foreign Economic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Both my grandfathers, my father and both my older brothers graduated in Rotterdam. So for me there was not much choice. But I really had a wonderful time in Rotterdam. Because I had a great interest in politics and economics, I chose to study macroeconomics. I also became a member of the student association Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps and I was an active member of the Economic Faculty Association (board member). During my time as a student I also spent 1.5 year with some friends to backpack in South America and Asia. And I was for three years assistant to Professor Carel van der Weijden in macroeconomics.
I benefit every day from the economic thinking and the skills I learned as a student. I very much enjoyed my study, especially the lectures in macroeconomics and in history of economic thinking. My study at Erasmus School of Economics, and the international orientation in Rotterdam gave me a wonderful foundation for my career in the public sector.
Former Vice-Chairman of ING Bank
I had a great time as a Business Economics student. I not only learned how to work in an independent, no-nonsense, structured way; I also learned how to combine this with all kinds of part-time jobs, other initiatives and a membership of Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps, which I look back on with great pleasure.
I personally benefited from the broad study I chose, partly in light of the – occasionally surprising – twists and turns one’s career can take. Although I rounded off a doctoral programme in Marketing, I eventually ended up on the financing end of the business. You can become all sorts of things with a Marketing degree, in other words. Supporting subjects like Bookkeeping and Cost Accounting also proved very valuable when it came to understanding the relationship between business initiatives and finances. Enrolling at Erasmus School of Economics: I would recommend it to anyone.
CEO SHV Holding
“My reasons for enrolling in a programme at Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Economics Faculty in 1979 were actually quite self-explanatory: I wanted to study Business Economics, and EUR was already a leading institution in this field in those years. I never regretted my decision, because I had a wonderful time. I joined the University for the degree programme, the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps for the conviviality, and Rotterdamse Studenten Rugby Club for the exercise.
I chose Financing and Investments as my specialisation: a decision that bore me a lot of fruit in my later career in banking. I have particularly fond memories of the Financing seminar: coming together in relatively small groups to perform research and study specific issues in greater depth.
I’m sure it will not come as a surprise that I wholeheartedly recommend Erasmus School of Economics.”
CEO of Philips
“My time as a Business Economics student has helped me to develop into the person I am today. This study has allowed me to gain a broad idea of what it is to be an entrepreneur. Among other things, I greatly enjoyed the lectures in Marketing by Professor Jan Bunt, Corporate Law by Professor Slagter and Tax Law by Professor Stevens. My student days were an unforgettable, eye-opening experience thanks to my active membership of the RSC and AIESEC, our great digs in Kralingen, the many part-time jobs that were open to you in an active city like Rotterdam, and the numerous friendships I formed in that period. One of the tags included in an RSC almanac from the early 1980s read: ‘Fr.ns v.n H..t.n – businessman under construction’. This proved very prescient.
After graduating in 1985, I first served as an officer in the Royal Netherlands Navy. After that, I quickly joined Philips. I benefited a great deal from the broad character of the Business Economics programme, and the analytical depth and the structured approach to argumentation. But the enterprising character of Rotterdam as a city also proved very stimulating. And today, Philips is still enthusiastic about the typical Rotterdam mentality of ‘make it happen’ found among its younger talent – as is borne out by the many trainees from EUR who set to work in our company.”
CEO Unilever Food Solutions - Global
Graduated in 1983
As we all experience what we learn at the university is important but what we learn “around” the university has at least as much impact and accelerates the personal development. This happens via many different student jobs, friendships that started those days and are still on, exchange programs, traineeships, etc. For me Laurentius was the place where I might have spent a similar amount of time as what I spent at the university, being in so many committees, the board, etc. What opened my eyes as well was my first exchange program, with the Michigan State University, living and studying for 3 months in the USA. I suddenly discovered that the world is much bigger, faster moving and different to what I was used to in Holland and Europe.
Starting with a fast forward marketing career, followed by Customer Development my desire was to go international - which happened several times so far.
I was lucky in the sense that I lived often abroad for 3-5 years each time and alternatively in between continued my career in the Netherlands. At the end I lived half of my working life abroad. This included 3 years Hong Kong with the responsibility for SE Asia, 3 years Ireland as the local Chairman, 3 years North America for global marketing and some international projects, 4 years Germany as the Marketing Director and later 5 years as the Chairman for Unilever Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In between I was in the Benelux responsible in a number of Marketing and CD roles, as well as being the Chairman of Unilever Benelux. Today I am globally responsible for Unilever Food Solutions, the dedicated food service division of Unilever.
What this all has in common is my global mindset and using the world as source of inspiration. I am inspired and very passionate to develop and grow people and businesses. I love seeing the personal growth of people as well as the change in company cultures and mindset and as result the change in results for all:
Topline growth, bottom line growth, responsible growth, consistent growth and personal growth, what I like to call the 5 G’s.
In closing, Rotterdam offered me a great start and strong fundamentals. But like everything in life it is not just what you hear, see or learn, it is what you do with it. Erasmus University Rotterdam combined with all the other non-Erasmus activities around the same time gave me what I needed to enjoy life and to give something back where I can.
Member of the Executive Board/CFO of Reinier Haga Ziekenhuizen
“My ties with Erasmus University Rotterdam have turned into a lifelong relationship. I moved to Rotterdam to study Economics. And I’ve stayed there since. After graduating in Fiscal Business Economics, I started working as an auditor. In other words, I enrolled in the post-doctoral programme and the EDP Auditing programme at what is today known by the name ESAA. I also held guest lectures on Change in Supervision, Tone at the Top and Dilemmas for the CFO.
Which skills did I acquire at Erasmus School Economics? On the one hand, a nice mix of analysis and observation; on the other hand, practical thinking. You learn this from your professors, but also – and above all – from your fellow students. The professors whom I have specifically strong memories of include Leo Stevens and Sybren Cnossen, who always held interesting lectures. I learned how to work in teams and how to organise at my student association, Laurentius. I still drop in there occasionally to meet with old friends, and make new ones.
In my opinion, the younger generation is doing a very good job: they are taking responsibility, as well as putting everything in perspective every now and then. And that’s precisely how they’ve always done things in Rotterdam…”
Former Vice-Chair of Air France-KLM
Erasmus School of Economics had already been around six years at the time of KLM’s establishment. In 2013, the School celebrated a major milestone with its first centenary. However, as a renowned academic institution, Erasmus School of Economics can also look towards a bright future.
When a mechanical engineer from a family steeped in aviation moves from Amsterdam to Rotterdam to study Business Economics, you can be sure he has a good reason. Rotterdam’s reputation is based on its port, the leading European hub for international shipping and the handling of tremendously complex cargo flows, and is bolstered by an indispensable mentality of ‘actions speak louder than words’.
This suits me quite well, as does the Operational Research field, which after all strives to arrive at optimal solutions for complex problems, with an emphasis on the interaction between people and technology; the interaction between organisational matters, the individual psyche and doing business. I can recommend this field to any student with an interest in such matters.
My career in the aviation sector, with an Erasmus School of Economics degree in my pocket, took me to a number of locations in the Netherlands and beyond, past various financial and operational departments within KLM. After having gained further experience in Human Resources, executive management and Engineering & Maintenance, in 1997, I joined the Board of KLM, and was ultimately appointed President‑Director and CEO in 2007.
While civil aviation is a typical service industry – albeit one with strong ties with high-grade technology – in the different stages of my career, I have always felt a strong connection between the sector’s three main cornerstones: economic activity; made possible by technology; and, ultimately, the people performing the actual work. The continuity of our company guarantees employment for our workforce of some 33,000 employees and their families within the KLM Group. A far larger number of people have indirect ties with KLM – as one of the Netherlands’ foremost employers – both at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, in the Randstad agglomeration and far further afield. I have always worked in their interest, and I will continue to do so. The groundwork for this approach was laid during my time as a student, characterised by the motto ‘actions speak louder than words!’
Chairman of the Executive Board of Rabobank Netherlands 2009-2013
“Rotterdam gives you a foundation for life: Rotterdam has formed me. It’s a no-nonsense town with a no-nonsense university. My fondest memories are of my propaedeutic year in the old building on Pieter de Hooghweg, with illustrious professors like Diepenhorst, Lambers and Tinbergen. You could hear a pin drop during those lectures.
The world has gone through dramatic changes since that time. I am convinced that my studies and consecutive doctoral programme at Erasmus School of Economics have provided me with a solid foundation for making the right decisions in my professional life.”
Independent Management Consulting Professional
“Studying in Rotterdam: After rounding off my national service as an officer of the intelligence service, I was curious to find about more about Rotterdam’s Economics offer. Since I was used to collecting and analysing data, the infrastructure that prepared me for the kandidaats-examination amounted to a kind of basic training for me. Things became more interesting after that. I encountered a broad expanse with numerous vistas. It wasn’t always as easy to determine what use the specific subjects would have for me. And then there is the lure of the various renowned masters whom you could learn from (Tinbergen, Theil, Verdoorn, Burgert). Unfortunately, the planning of the lectures would sometimes clash: when Theil was leaving for the US, for example, and he decided to hold his lectures over the lunch break – the same time as Tinbergen.
In other words, the decision-making process was sometimes inspiring and surprising in its own right. To this day, one of the assignments Verdoorn gave us – to draft a questionnaire for the use of wine vinegar – helps me to critically evaluate a specific question. In practice, it turned out that structured thinking remains important long after you’ve finished that hand-full of examinations. Life itself is one extended study, and I am very happy to have laid the level-headed groundwork for this pursuit in Rotterdam.”
CEO of Aegon 1993-2002, Former Chairman of the Board of AB InBev
A centennial like this does take you back. I studied here from 1963, when it was called Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (NEH) – the predecessor of Erasmus School of Economics – to 1969 (Business Economics) and 1972 (Accountancy). Which equals a clean 9% of that whole century, come to think of it. And... I loved it! I thoroughly enjoyed… studying: you could hardly get me out of the lecture hall.
But I also enjoyed my student association SSR-R, Studium Generale and I really loved my three-month visit to the US, thanks to the generous aid of the A.A. van Beek Fund, among other supporters. Without all these things, my life would probably have turned out very different, and a lot less interesting. I had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but I was fairly confident that I was amply prepared for ‘anything’ that would cross my path. And I haven’t been disappointed!
Member of the Supervisory Board of Erasmus University Rotterdam 2005-2013
“When I enrolled in what was then called the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool, the present-day Erasmus School of Economics, you could only study Economics there. I decided to study there because I wanted to know everything about how our society is structured in economic terms, and how companies functioned within this structure. I believed this would enable me to lay a solid foundation for a future in which I helped expand one or more companies – in an executive position or some other capacity. The latter aspect – setting up some kind of business enterprise – was also amply reflected in the Rotterdam curriculum, which was already very broa.
One thing that definitely appealed to me was the strong reputation of a number of the School’s professors, who I had already heard or read about. But above all the idea of ‘commercial practice’ – a concept that is inextricably linked to studying Economics in Rotterdam – and the international character of the study programme – and our port city – appealed very strongly to me.
However, both my father, who had also graduated in Rotterdam and who ran his own company, and a number of other family members and acquaintances emphatically pointed out to me that studying involves more than the mere acquisition of knowledge. During your studies, you also develop as a person. In my case, this process was mainly driven by my board mandates within the AIESEC, the international exchange organisation for Economics students. First in Rotterdam, then nationally, and ultimately at the international level. In this capacity, I met a great many fellow students, professors and business executives in the Netherlands and abroad. These contacts turned out to be of considerable importance later on. Thanks to my activities for AIESEC, I met my future wife, who was Vice-President of the French AIESEC committee, as well as landing my first jobs at Royal Dutch Shell and McKinsey.
In short: I will never forget my days at Erasmus School of Economics, and I wouldn’t hesitate to enrol there again!”
Former Minister of Economic Affairs of Indonesia
If I had to start over, I would once again enrol as a student at Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (NEH), the precursor of Erasmus School of Economics.
Since the birth of the Republic of Indonesia, our Cabinet has always included an alumnus of Erasmus School of Economics. Starting with Mohammad Hatta, who even as a student already played a very active role in our struggle for independence – indeed, he was our nation’s first Vice-President. Together with Ir. Sukarno, Hatta was later recognised as one of the founders and proclamators of the independent Republic of Indonesia. Hatta graduated from the Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool – as Erasmus School of Economics was then called – on 5 July 1932. On 24 May 2014, Professor Dr Wim Lammerts van Bueren visited Hatta’s two daughters and son-in-law in the house where Hatta had always lived, to present a framed photograph of the Campus’s new student housing building for international students, the Hatta Building. They were moved by the occasion.
After Hatta, the Cabinet included the following Rotterdam-educated economists: Jusuf Muda Dalam served as Governor of the Indonesian central bank, followed by Professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo as Minister of Trade and Minister of Finance. Radius Prawiro’s first ministerial-level appointment was President of the Court of Audit. He went on to serve as Governor of the Bank Indonesia (the central bank), Minister of Trade, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry. Radius called back Arifin Siregar from New York to serve in the Cabinet as Governor of the Central Bank, Minister of Trade and Ambassador in Washington DC. I started my career in politics as one of the Chairmen of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). I became a member of parliament in 1999, while simultaneously serving as the Vice-President of the People’s Congress. After this, President Abdurrachman Wahid appointed me as Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry. President Megawati Sukarnoputri subsequently installed me as the Minister of National Development Planning.
For a long time, the leaders of Indonesia’s central banks were predominantly Erasmus School of Economics alumni, while economic policy during the 32-year Suharto administration was mainly determined by graduates of the University of California in Berkeley. Off the record, you would hear: “The Berkeley Mafia has the government, while the Rotterdam Mafia has the money.” At which point, Arifin would immediately correct the term ‘Rotterdam Mafia’ to ‘Rotterdam Angels’.
It goes without saying that over the course of my career, the knowledge and wisdom I acquired in Erasmus School of Economics has proven of indispensable value. Every time I am confronted with a problem that needs to be resolved, my mind goes back to the Erasmus School of Economics professor relevant to the issue at hand.
My membership of the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps (RSC) introduced me to Western culture and value systems. As someone who didn’t speak a word of Dutch when he arrived in Rotterdam, joining the RSC proved an excellent decision.
Professor Wisselink was a fount of practical wisdom, starting his first lecture with the words: “Ladies and Gentlemen, there is nothing new under the sun. The things you will be learning in the years ahead are simple truths, wrapped in complicated phrases and formulas in order to come across as science.” In addition, he noted that “a gentleman’s agreement is an agreement to the detriment of the gentleman in question.”
Last but least, I am grateful for the privilege of participating in the establishment and management of the Witteveen-Dekker Indonesian Scholarship Foundation. This foundation has issued a number of scholarships to promising Indonesian students, enabling them to embark on a very impressive career.
Prime Minister of the Netherlands 1982-1994
Ruud Lubbers passed away on 14 February 2018
“I have very fond memories of my years at Nederlandse Economische Hoogeschool (from 1 September 1957 to 1 April 1962). Mostly thanks to the succession of outstanding professors who taught there. This more than anything made it such a worthwhile experience. Imagine sitting in a lecture hall, listening to Professor Tinbergen or Professor Witteveen, to name just two luminaries. Actually, my time studying there finished too soon – although thanks to Tinbergen, when I graduated under Witteveen’s supervision, it was still with honours.
My study has continued to have an impact on my life. Consequently, for me, my years in Rotterdam amount to far more than just a Business Economics degree – they have proven valuable throughout my life.
‘Non scholae sed vitae discimus’.
It has had a lasting influence on my life as an entrepreneur (ten years) and in politics (7,777 days in The Hague) and finally as a Professor of Globalisation and one of the founding fathers of Earth Charter.”
Former Minister of Finance and fifth Managing Director of the IMF
Johannes Witteveen passed away on 23 April 2019
I have very fond memories of my time as a student at the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool. One of my key experiences in this period was a masterly Economics lecture held by Professor F. de Vries, who clarified the fundamentals of economic thinking. Another very important event was a lecture by Professor Jan Tinbergen, one of the pioneers of Econometrics.
This economic thinking proved of tremendous benefit to me in my later positions. Gaining insight into economic cycles and into international economic relations was very important both in my political life and in my work for the International Monetary Fund.
My advice to students is: as far as possible, opt for those subjects and lecturers that spark your interest and get you thinking. Ultimately, it’s all about learning to think for yourself.