The Erasmus statue is still standing next tot he Laurenskerk (LW) Image credit: Levien Willemse

Back in 1997, Matthijs den Hollander was described as a ‘senior Business Administration student and the most ardent admirer of Desiderius Erasmus out of all EUR students’. He remembers the toppled Erasmus statue like it was yesterday. The statue of Erasmus created by Hendrick de Keijser, near the Laurens Church, fell off its pedestal in late 1996. It was probably pulled down by vandals. Den Hollander used the delay experienced in the renovation of the statue to try and raise awareness of Erasmus’ intellectual legacy. “It happened around Erasmus University’s 85th anniversary celebration,” he recently told EM. “And I felt that a little more attention should be paid to Erasmus in this special anniversary year, on top of the university’s name and signature.”

EM has been around for twenty years now. During that period, we have featured many people, who have told us about their special achievements, excellent research and other interesting things. But who were these people who were featured by EM twenty years ago? How do they look back on this period, and how are they doing now?

“I had just served on the board of the Department of Business Administration’s study society, and I thought: the re-placement of Erasmus on his pedestal is an important occasion, but we – the students and the student societies – are hardly aware of the importance of his work. It would be wonderful if many students attended the re-installation.”

“A friend and I borrowed gowns from the Registrar, and thus attired we gate-crashed a meeting of theanniversary celebration committee to make that point,” Den Hollander says with a smile. “We wanted them to actively introduce students to Erasmus’ intellectual legacy and the identity of Erasmus University.” The committee took his words to heart. In addition, Den Hollander, in association with like-minded Erasmus fans, established the Ad Fontes foundation. “When they re-installed the statue, there was a ceremony at the Laurens Church, which was attended by the boards of all student societies.” The glass sculpture of Erasmus’ face sitting in front of the E Building was likewise commissioned by the foundation established by Den Hollander.

The Erasmus statue is still standing next tot he Laurenskerk (LW) Image credit: Levien Willemse

Just like today, tradition dictated in 1997 that graduates pose next to ‘Erasmus’. At the time, there was only a replica of the statue, made of polystyrene, nicknamed ‘that polystyrene thing’ or ‘the twit’. The statue was binned in 2006, having become unpresentable because too many graduates picked at it. The two statues of Erasmus that are most likely to crop up in today’s graduation photos have not been around for a very long time. The bronze replica of De Keijser’s famous Erasmus sculpture was commissioned in China by an alumnus in 2008. The statue inside the Erasmus Building, which is officially called Desiderius Multiplex and was developed by the Rotterdam architect-and-artist Gerard Frishert at the Executive Board’s behest, has been around since 2009.

Den Hollander thinks it is great that the posing tradition still exists. But while he was ‘Desiderius Erasmus’s most ardent fan’, he himself never got to pose with Erasmus, as he never completed his degree in Business Administration.