Ulm University turns 50!
Foundation day celebrations sees ceremonial act, anniversary ball and high-ranking political personalities

Ulm University

Ulm University celebrated its 50-year anniversary on Friday 24 February with a ceremonial act and anniversary ball. Special guests were, among others, Winfried Kretschmann, State Premier of Baden-Württemberg and Professor Peter Strohschneider, President of the German Research Foundation (DFG), who gave a talk about the 'pluralistic university'. The Lord Mayor of Ulm, Gunter Czisch, delivered a special present.

On 25 February in 1967, a celebration was held at Kornhaus to mark the foundation of the higher education institution for medicine and science called Medizinisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Hochschule Ulm. Academic activities commenced in the winter of 1969 with merely 60 students in a provisional location in the inner city. 50 years later, Ulm University and its outstanding research performance play a pivotal role in the Science City and welcomes the opportunity of its anniversary year to celebrate extensively with a comprehensive events programme. The official opening event was the anniversary celebration at the Congress Centre Ulm (CCU) on Friday afternoon with over 900 guests.

State Premier of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann, Lord Mayor of Ulm Gunter Czisch, the President of the German Research Foundation (DFG) Professor Peter Strohschneider and numerous other personalities from the local, state and federal government came to offer their congratulations. Former State Premier of Baden-Württemberg Professor Erwin Teufel, several parliamentarians and a number of university rectors and chancellors also joined the ceremonial act. The subsequent anniversary ball at the CCU saw more than 400 guests dancing through to 25 February, the actual foundation day anniversary of the University.

The President of Ulm University Professor Michael Weber opened the ceremonial proceedings with a video clip of the foundation ceremony in 1967. Prof. Weber, computer scientist, became President by election in 2015. In his opening speech he reflected on much more than just the early beginnings. The citizens of Ulm demonstrated a great act of tenacity in order to create their University. Over the past 50 years the institution developed most impressively: international rankings have been listing Ulm University as one of the best young universities in Germany for years. High-volume third-party funds, four DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centres, six ERC grants as well as sought-after junior programmes stand as proof of the research strength of the state's youngest university. The range of subjects continues to have a strong focus on medicine, natural sciences, mathematics and technology. The student numbers, however, have grown from initially 1,600 to now almost 11,000.

 'Looking at half a century of university history, it is a great pleasure to note how amazingly Ulm University has developed,' Professor Weber says in his opening speech. The continuing expansion of course offers has contributed greatly to the unique and focussed profile of the University, which stands out in comparison to other higher education providers.

Ulm University is in a strong position and ready to tackle the second half of its first century in existence. 'As set out in the structure and development plan, the University will focus on important cross-disciplinary research topics in order to contribute to the great global challenges of ageing, sustainability, technologies of the future and human health,' Weber explains. The next challenge will be the participation in the 'Excellence Strategy' on a federal and state level.  Ulm University, and relevant partners, will submit three applications for Clusters of Excellence in the areas of trauma research, quantum technology and energy storage. 'I am delighted that we have come together today to celebrate our 50-year anniversary and collectively move into the future, or at least the next 50 years,' the President concludes.

Congratulations from the State Premier and the gift of an endowed professorship

State Premier Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) had previously visited Ulm University in spring of 2014. In the well-attended CCU he congratulated the youngest university of the state: 'There were good reasons to build a university in Ulm 50 years ago: the catchment area, the pre-existing excellence and the economic strength of the region. Most of all, however, Ulm University came into existence by request and with the tremendous support of the citizens of the city. Today, the trio of Ulm University, Ulm University of Applied Sciences and Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences (HNU) is leading the way in the region in terms of science and research. 'The State Premier then pointed out the University's success in the 'regional research alliances'. Equipped with 900,000 euros of state funding, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Ulm University, the University of Stuttgart and the Max Planck Institute of Solid State Physics transfers insights from quantum science to industrial application. Opportunities stretch from highly sensitive sensors to magnetic resonance scanners that allow the observation of metabolic processes.

Lord Mayor Gunter Czisch (CDU) also highlighted the University's significance to the city and the region. Czisch emphasised how Ulm University, and in its footsteps also the institutions of the Science City Ulm, have paved the path to a successful knowledge-based society: 'Ulm owes what it has become and the opportunities that were created and seized, in part, to its university. 'Education and innovation are of great importance, particularly in the age of globalisation and in a knowledge-based society. 'I wouldn't want to imagine where we might be today, had the decision not been made to found the university at the time. Today we know just too well that the structural changes in our region would not have been as successful without the University, the University of Applied Sciences and the institutions in the Science City. 'This 50-year anniversary therefore presents another great opportunity for the city to pick up momentum.
Czisch then announced the city's newly created endowed professorship for 'Networked Mobility Systems' with focus on digital mobility, 'one of the top topics of the development plans for the city.'

His predecessors, Ivo Gönner and Ernst Ludwig, also joined the ceremony. Ludwig had been appointed by the city as Commissioner for the University and was the one who pushed the foundation of the University in the 1960s. The University's foundation day shares the same date as Ludwig's 90th birthday.

The President of the German Research Foundation, Professor Peter Strohschneider, held a commemorative speech where he congratulated Ulm University and spoke about the frequently changing definition of the university as an institution over the past five decades. He also discussed the role and the challenges of the 'pluralistic university' in the face of current socio-political developments. The university, he said, provides a forum for open disputes and 'confrontation', in a positive sense and for the best of the society that sustains the university. 'It was such a place here in Ulm in the past half century and will continue to be so during the next 50 years. This, at least, is my greatest wish for this anniversary. Such a goal is worth each and every effort,' he concludes.

The ceremony was accompanied by an ensemble of the Ulm University Orchestra and was followed by a reception and the anniversary ball. Ulm University has several more events lined up to celebrate this anniversary. Highlights are the 50th Anniversary with the subsequent Lange Nacht der Wissenschaft (Science Night) on 21 July as well as Ulm Lectures with internationally renowned scientists. Nobel Prize winner Professor Harald zur Hausen will kick off the programme on 9 March (6:00 p.m.) at the Stadthaus Ulm. The Future Forum presented by the Ulmer Universitätsgesellschaft e.V. (Ulm University Association) and Ulm University is scheduled for 13 October.

The University is coming to town 

The anniversary lecture series by the Ulm University Association covering the University's areas of research, started in January and will be followed by the additional series 'The brain - an extraordinary organ' and 'Neurosurgery up close and personal'.

The anniversary year programme also entails an exhibition on the history of the University, presented in the inner city. An articulated bus decorated with the anniversary vignette and other university motifs will connect the city centre with the Science City and thus symbolise the close connection between city and University.

Further information on the anniversary, programme:

Photos of the university anniversary: Ulm University welcomes the anniversary year as an opportunity to expand its social media presence: subscribe to our news feeds on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  

university anniversary with high-ranking personalities (from left): Prof. Peter Strohschneider (President of the DFG), Winfried Kretschmann (State Premier), Prof. Michael Weber (President Ulm University) and Gunter Czisch (Lord Mayor of Ulm)
University anniversary with high-ranking personalities (from left): Prof. Peter Strohschneider (President of the DFG), Winfried Kretschmann (State Premier), Prof. Michael Weber (President Ulm University) and Gunter Czisch (Lord Mayor of Ulm) (photo: Elvira Eberhardt / Ulm University)
The President of the DFG, Prof. Peter Strohschneider, delivered a festive speech for the 50th anniversary of the University
The President of the DFG, Prof. Peter Strohschneider, delivered a festive speech for the 50th anniversary of the University (photo: Elvira Eberhardt / Ulm University)
State Premier Winfried Kretschmann
State Premier Winfried Kretschmann (photo: Elvira Eberhardt / Ulm University)
The President of Ulm University Professor Michael Weber
The President of Ulm University Professor Michael Weber opened the ceremonial proceedings with a video clip of the foundation ceremony in 1967 (photo: Elvira Eberhardt / Ulm University)