UZH Awards Eight Honorary Doctorates

At this year's Dies academicus ceremony, the University of Zurich awarded honorary doctorates to eight outstanding individuals: Zurich ombudswoman Claudia Kaufmann, former federal judge Vera Rottenberg Liatowitsch, photographer Hannes Schmid, Korea scholar Martina Deuchler, immunologist Richard A. Flavell, neurologist Kathleen Digre, economist Royston Greenwood, and Pastor Martin Fontana. The annual ceremony commemorates the foundation of the University.

Rector Michael Hengartner with honorary doctors
Rector Michael Hengartner with honorary doctors: Front row (from left): Prof. Dr. Richard A. Flavell, Prof. Dr. Kathleen Digre, Rektor Michael Hengartner, Hannes Schmid, Dr. Vera Rottenberg Liatowitsch; back row (from left): Prof. Dr. Martina Deuchler, Prof. Dr. Royston Greenwood, Beat Husi, Pfarrer Martin Fontana, Dr. Claudia Kaufmann.



Numerous personalities from the worlds of academia, politics, industry, and culture gathered at this year’s Dies academicus celebration, which marked the 185th anniversary of the University. The ceremony opened with a speech by Dr. Martin Dahinden, UZH alumnus and Swiss ambassador to the US. Dahinden recalled his tenure as president of the Association of the Non-Professorial Academic Staff of the University of Zurich (VAUZ) – which is celebrating its 50th anniversary – and reflected on the interdisciplinary nature of his studies in economics, saying it is mainly the open-minded, analytical thinking practiced at UZH that remains fresh in his memory: “Over the course of my diplomatic career, I have profited greatly from the breadth of knowledge gained at UZH as well as from the lessons in how to apply it,” Dahinden said. He then made a strong argument for a university culture that educates students to be critical thinkers – rather than simply training them to mechanically regurgitate facts. “Students with a university education should master critical thinking and be capable of challenging the status quo. Their thinking should move beyond current frontiers and explore the unknown.”

50th anniversary of VAUZ

The current co-presidents of VAUZ, Oriana Schällibaum and Georg Winterberger, reflected on the 50-year history of the organization established to represent the interests of the non-professorial academic staff. The co-presidents stressed how the responsibilities of the staff have changed markedly with the continual expansion of the University and its mission. And they discussed future challenges – for instance, providing better support for junior academics.

President Michael Hengartner then highlighted some of UZH’s achievements from last year: Enrollments in 2017, at 25,672 students, retained the high level of the previous year, with an increase in the number of students studying STEM subjects and medicine, and more candidates pursuing doctoral study. He also noted the slight increase in third-party funds and designated donations to the University over the past year. Other positive developments include UZH’s admittance to the higher education network “Universitas 21” and new strategic partnerships with Freie Universität Berlin as well as the universities of Prague and Geneva.

Honorary doctorates awarded

The University of Zurich awarded an honorary doctorate to four women and four men: 

  • The Faculty of Theology honored Pastor Martin Fontana for the over 50 years he has dedicated to producing a modern, authoritative translation of the Bible into the Sursilvan dialect of Romansch.
  • The Faculty of Law awarded the title to Dr. Claudia Kaufmann, ombudswoman of the City of Zurich, in recognition of her many years of championing gender equality and non-discrimination, as presented in scholarly work and implemented in legal drafting and law enforcement; and to the former federal judge Dr. Vera Rottenberg Liatowitsch for her dedication to improving the rights of women and her campaign against racism and antisemitism.
  • The Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics honored Professor Royston Greenwood of the University of Alberta for his research into organizations and his work towards a theory of institutions, which sheds light on the interplay between organizations and society.
  • The Faculty of Medicine presented the award to Professor Kathleen Digre of the University of Utah for her research in the field of neurological vision disorders as well as for her work to promote gender equality in academia.
  • The Vetsuisse Faculty honored the photographer Hannes Schmid for his work to help families living in the slums of Phnom Penh, Cambodia to secure a sustainable, self-sufficient existence.
  • The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences awarded an honorary doctorate to Professor Martina Deuchler, renowned expert in Korean studies, for her role in raising the perception of Korea’s social history far beyond the borders of her own discipline, and for actively fostering generations of junior scholars of Asian studies.
  • The Faculty of Science honored the respected immunologist Professor Richard A. Flavell of Yale University for his contributions to better understanding adaptive and genetic immune response and for his findings on how an imbalance in gut flora can influence metabolic disorders.

Beat Husi named UZH Guest of Honor

UZH named Beat Husi, former legal clerk of the Canton of Zurich, a permanent UZH Guest of Honor. The award was conferred for his significant contribution to the legislative framework of the University as well as his for efforts to ensure consistency in its legal terminology. Furthermore, in his role as president of the association “200 Jahre Alfred Escher und Gottfried Keller,” he collaborated with UZH to preserve the historical heritage of the Canton of Zurich.

UZH Teaching Award to Silja Häusermann

The 2018 edition of the UZH Teaching Award was granted to Professor Silja Häusermann of the Department of Political Science. The professor of Swiss policy and comparative political economy received the award for her skill in motivating students to critically reflect on current research findings and to challenge the prevailing tendencies.

Awards for research excellence

The 2017 IBM research award for computer modeling and simulation in chemistry and materials science was granted to Corina Keller for her Master’s thesis in chemistry.
Maurizio Taramasso MD of the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at the UniversityHospital Zurich received the 2018 prize of the foundation “Walter und Gertrud Siegenthaler Stiftung,” which also awarded its annual grant for a research stay to Christian Fankhauser MD, resident physician at the Department of Urology at the UniversityHospital Zurich.

Lastly, Eckhard Wolf DVM received the Walter Frei award for his research into the mechanisms of embryo-maternal communication in domestic animals as well as for his work in developing large animal models for medical research.

Annual awards of the UZH faculties

The 2018 awards of the UZH faculties were presented to Nicole Rupschus (Faculty of Theology), Katja Kevic (Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics), Shengjile Deari (Faculty of Medicine), Sophie Zatta (Vetsuisse Faculty), Jessica Elizabeth Imbach (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences), and Carolin Anders (Faculty of Science).