Like all institutions, the Fellows’ Club of the Wissenschaftskolleg also suffered from the current pandemic. The statutes see the point of the Club in carrying out events, with the goal of bringing current and former Fellows together. The Berliner Abend and the Members’ Assembly are the external signs of this, and they are intended as an occasion for former Fellows to come to Berlin and the Wissenschaftskolleg. The aim is thus to maintain connection and closeness – almost an impossibility in times when the order of the day remains utterly different, namely keeping one’s distance. Nonetheless, we hope that this year, after an interruption of two years, we will be able to carry out a Fellow Meeting again and afterward another Berliner Abend (the last one having taken place January 2020). That this newsletter is devoted to the topic of the pandemic is doubtless also the order of the day – and aims to encourage readers to cast their gaze on the time afterward. In 1787, when Beethoven set off for Vienna for the first time, smallpox was raging there; from the time when he finally arrived for good in 1792, he witnessed three severe smallpox epidemics (with a high mortality rate) in rapid succession until 1800. This was not dangerous for him, solely because he had already undergone and survived a smallpox infection in Bonn. A glance back in time sometimes helps put present-day events in perspective.
After we had to do without a Members’ Assembly in 2020 and the reelection and new election of the Board of Directors was postponed, leaving the existing Board provisionally in office, in 2021 we were at least able to hold an Assembly and elections virtually. After two terms in office, Frank Rexroth has left the Board of Directors. Let us cordially thank him again here for his exemplary engagement! Simone Reber was elected as the new Deputy Chairperson. She heads the research group “Quantitative Biology” and is Professor at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin as well as at the Berliner Hochschule für Technik; in 2014/2015, she was a College for Life Sciences Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg. Here we cordially greet her in happy anticipation of our work together. I, too, was reelected, but due to the shifted cycle, for a term of just two years.
Another change in personnel is to be conveyed here. For health reasons, Vera Kempa had to temporarily give up her engagement for the Fellows’ Club in 2020. To everyone’s great joy, she has now been able to fully resume her work at the Wissenschaftskolleg. But she decided to let someone else take over as Secretary of the Fellows’ Club. Sabine Ubags, the head of the Rector’s office, temporarily carries out the Club’s business in close cooperation with Nina Kitsos, and we are grateful that she has declared her willingness to take on this task entirely from Vera Kempa. Collaboration with Sabine Ubags is also wonderful. But according to our statutes, the Secretary must be appointed by the Members’ Assembly, so we will place this on this June’s agenda. Until then, Sabine Ubags will continue to conduct business provisionally.
Here I would like to thank Vera Kempa in the name of the Board of Directors and the whole Fellows’ Club for her longstanding efforts as its Secretary. The collaboration with her was always a real pleasure: thorough, precise, and unperturbed; and as a person, she was as reliable as enhancing. Of course, we hope to be able to greet Vera Kempa regularly at the Club’s events.
Our annual meeting is to be held in June. At the beginning of this new year, let us be optimistic that it can take place without major restrictions. And that we then have the possibility to finally see each other again in the flesh or “in presence”, as it is now called.
Last but not least, I’d like to encourage you not to forget your membership fee. Without the regular contributions from all of you, we hardly can afford the interesting meetings in the summer. And with the new PayPal account, set up by Sabine Ubags for the annual contribution and donations, your support is only a matter of a few clicks!