The new h_da President Prof. Dr. Arnd Steinmetz (left) and his predecessor Prof. Dr. Ralph Stengler. Photo: h_da/Jo Henker

Farewell to President Stengler

On Friday, 25 March 2022, Prof. Dr. Ralph Stengler was given a ceremonial farewell as President of the h_da after 12 years in office. More than 100 guests attended the event in the auditorium on the Dieburg campus, including Hesse's Minister of Science Angela Dorn, Darmstadt's Mayor Jochen Partsch, Dieburg's Mayor Frank Haus and the Chair of the University Council Prof. Dr. May-Britt Kallenrode, President of the University of Hildesheim.

By Christina Janssen, Editor Press Communications, 31.3.2022

Angela Dorn praised Prof. Dr. Ralph Stengler as a committed university president who had achieved a great deal for the university and the state as a whole. He had relied on teamwork from the very beginning. Dorn referred to the enormous challenges posed by the rapidly increasing student numbers that characterised the Stengler era. During this phase, the h_da developed into a "study magnet", a place where "solutions for the challenges of this time" were developed. At the same time, the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt made a significant contribution to equal opportunities and educational justice.

The Chair of the University Council, Professor Dr May-Britt Kallenrode, said that as a university councillor she was thrilled to see how the university development planning had taken shape despite the adversities of the Corona period: "We could feel how the university had struggled over issues, how it had moved on, how it had enjoyed it." To achieve this, she said, was an impressive feat. The h_da also set standards in the Stengler era with the right to award doctorates. Moreover, with the EUt+ alliance for higher education, a milestone had been set for an important European project that would blossom in the coming years.

In his very personal eulogy, Prof. Dr. Arnd Steinmetz focused on the career of his predecessor – beginning with „Jugend forscht“ (a German science competition for highschool students), the study of physics as scholarship holder oft he renowned German Studienstiftung and the unforgotten quote "Physicists can do anything" to a presidency marked by turbulent conditions. Ralph Stengler steered the university through the financial crisis, the refugee crisis and the Corona crisis and got it back on track, Steinmetz said.  He is a colleague who is characterised by "openness, trust in the abilities of others and the gift of convincing people".  

In the course of the one-and-a-half-hour programme, other long-time companions from Germany and abroad spoke in digital greetings. Even a greeting from space reached the celebrants – from CIMON, the virtual astronaut helper on the ISS, and the German astronaut Matthias Maurer. The Department of Media, in cooperation with the Department of Plastics Technology, presented a small Stengler statue from the 3D printer, and a number of colleagues from the entire university also contributed to a farewell publication.

In his speech, Prof. Dr. Ralph Stengler said he could still remember exactly his first day as university president. Now he looks back with gratitude on thirty years as professor and twelve years as president at the h_da. The university was in a good position and there are many ideas for the future. However, this was certainly not only his achievement: "The university is an organisation of smart, exciting, very diverse people. And the successes are always the work of many." The period of strong student growth was like a "flight to the moon": "You have to create a lot of study places, so you have to start at the highest possible speed, but the closer you get to the moon, the more difficult it becomes. The consolidation phase, the soft landing, is the hardest part." It was nice to see how many colleagues rolled up their sleeves during this time without grumbling.

During the pandemic, Stengler says, it was impressive how the university managed to switch to virtual operation within a few weeks. "This can only be done if everyone participates. The students were also very 'indulgent' with us and our new teaching formats." Now, he said, it was a matter of landing the spaceship again without completely throwing the advantages of digital formats overboard. At the end of his speech, Ralph Stengler thanked his companions and colleagues at the h_da.

The words of welcome and thanks were framed by a colourful programme: a jazz trio played on stage and the poetry slammers Tilman Döring and Nick Duschek dedicated their performance to the topic of "truth". The champagne reception was accompanied by music from the band Walk-a-Tones. Around 50 students and colleagues from the Presidential Board, the Department of Media and University Communications were involved in the organisation and implementation of the event. A team of students led by Prof. Felix Krückels from the Department of Media recorded the event as a TV show, which you can watch on the h_da YouTube channel.