Director of Alumni Affairs Charles Hermans welcomed the family at the E building where the faculty is currently housed. “I have never been in this building before,” says grandson Thomas. He arrived in Rotterdam two months ago and is still following most of his lectures online.

Old professors

Together with Hermans, the family admires the timeline of Jan Tinbergen’s life that adorns the wall on the ground floor. Grandsons Thomas and Jason take turns pushing the wheelchair that their grandfather is sitting in. “I know those professors,” Kwik says when he sees a photo of ESE Emeriti. “I used to have lectures from them. The first one on the left is Wisselink, that is Tinbergen and those are Lambers and Van Esveld,” he says as he points to the photo.

In 1956, Kwik began his studies at the then Netherlands School of Economics, now the ESE. At that time, the economists were still located in the middle of the city on Pieter de Hoochweg. Kwik shows a photo of himself from a few days ago. “I am standing here in front of the old ESE building”, he says proudly. These days, the building is the home of the Rotterdam Theatre School.

'Rotterdam angels'

During his studies, Kwik met Edith Johanna de Widt, who at the time was working at the faculty. The young woman from Rotterdam captured his heart and they married not long afterwards. After working in the Netherlands for a few years, the family moved to Indonesia. For many years Kwik worked there as an entrepreneur and founded a number of companies. He also went into politics. In 1999, he became Coordinating Minister for Economic, Financial and Industrial Affairs, and from 2001 to 2004 he was Minister of National Planning.

Kwik was not the only EUR alumnus in the government. “Ever since the beginning of the Indonesian Republic, there have always been EUR alumni in the cabinet. It started with the first Prime Minister Mohammad Hatta,” he says. “We were not in the majority, but we did determine the economic direction to some extent. In the corridors, you would then hear: ‘The Berkeley mafia has the government, but the Rotterdam mafia has the money’,” Kwik laughs. The ‘Berkeley mafia’ are the Indonesian politicians who had studied at University of California, Berkeley in the United States. The ‘Rotterdam mafia’ was later known as the ‘Rotterdam angels’. “Justifiably so, if you ask me”, he adds with pride.

How has his Dutch education played a role in his career? “My time studying at EUR has shaped my way of thinking,” he notes. “The knowledge and wisdom I received during my student years here has proved to be indispensable throughout my career.”

Hatta Building

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Family Kwik and Charles Hermans in front of the Hatta building Image credit: Michelle Muus

It is not the first time that Kwik has paid a visit to the university. When the Hatta building opened in 2013, Kwik asked Hermans during his visit if Mohammad Hatta’s family knew that the building was named after him. Hermans then contacted the Executive Board about this. It turned out that the university had not yet been able to inform the family.

A year later, ESE professor Wim Lammerts van Bueren presented a framed photo of the Hatta building to the daughters of Hatta on behalf of the Executive Board. “It is because of you that it came right,” Hermans told Kwik. “Oh well, all’s well that ends well, right?” he replies.

‘Our’ university

From the E building, the family walks towards the Pavilion. “Oh, now I remember!” says son-in-law Yoe beside the pond. He points to the Tinbergen, Theil and Erasmus buildings. “When I was studying here, only those buildings were there. And this pond was a car park where I always parked my car.” Son-in-law Yoe also studied at the EUR. He began in 1987, and during his studies at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) he met Kwik Mu Lan, who was studying at the ESE then. The couple remained in the Netherlands until 2004 when they moved to Indonesia together with their two sons Jason and Thomas.

Already at an early age, Jason knew he would follow in his parents’ and grandfather’s footsteps: studying at the EUR. Like his father, he chose the RSM. “At the ESE, you have more quantitative subjects, while I find the qualitative ones more fascinating,” he states. In August, he finished his studies in International Business Administration and is currently doing an internship with a company in Amsterdam. “What will happen next, I don’t know yet. All options are still open.”

The choice was not so obvious to Thomas. “I had doubts about whether I wanted to study in the Netherlands or in the United States,” says the first-year IBEB student. “Fortunately, he came to Rotterdam, after all,” his father jokes. “In our family, the EUR really feels like ‘our’ university.”

RSC member

During the lunch in the Pavilion, Kwik sits next to a window. “It’s fantastic to be here again,” he says. Due to his health, travelling is no longer a matter of course, only this time, he had to come to the Netherlands for a medical examination at the Erasmus Medical Centre. “I have stomach problems and I am not very mobile anymore,” he explains.

He has very fond memories of his study period in Rotterdam. “I didn’t speak a word of Dutch when I arrived, but I decided to join the RSC student association. The association introduced me to Western culture. I had a lot of fun there,” he recollects. “My doctor said that my liver is not in good shape either. So I told him: that’s probably because of my time at RSC,” he laughs.