Prize rewards research, commitment to Dutch-Flemish cooperation and Dutch language in BrusselsMonday, May 2, 2022 — Els Witte, former rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, has been awarded the Visser-Neerlandia Prize in recognition of her scientific research on the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, her commitment to Dutch-Flemish cooperation - such as in her position as chair of the Flemish public broadcasting corporation - and her efforts on behalf of the Dutch language in Brussels and in science. The prize is awarded by the Algemeen-Nederlands Verbond (ANV), the association for Dutch-Flemish cooperation.
Witte: "I particularly appreciate being awarded the prize for three professional activities that have always been close to my heart."
Witte is professor-emeritus of contemporary history at VUB and was rector between 1994 and 2000, making her the third female rector in Belgium after Marie De Groodt-Lasseel of the Rijksuniversitair Centrum Antwerpen and Francoise Thys-Clément, Université libre de Bruxelles. As a historian of the contemporary period, Witte is known for her numerous works and articles on Belgian socio-political and intellectual history, and in particular on the 19th century and the third quarter of the 20th century.
She has been a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and Arts since 1988 and was chair of the Flemish Institute of History, which supported the publication of the National Biographical Dictionary, among other things. In 1977 Witte founded the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Matters in Brussels (BRUT), the predecessor of the Centre for Information, Documentation and Research on Brussels (BRIO). From 1988 to 1994 she was chair of the board of the broadcaster BRT and she was also a member of the Coudenberg Group think tank. In 1998, she was granted the title of Baroness, having already been appointed Knight in the Order of Leopold and in the Order of Leopold II.
The ANV awards the Visser-Neerlandia prizes every year. The most important criteria are affiliation with the ideals of the Jewish philosopher and lawyer Herman Visser, whose legacy created the award, and with the ANV’s goals of commitment to a better society, willpower, critical independent thinking in relation to the maintenance and development of the Dutch language and cultural community worldwide. The award ceremony will take place on 15 October at the Makiezenhof in Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands.