Burgemeester Unveiling bust Johanna Westerdijk

Speech Mayor Jan van Zanen

Utrecht, Westerdijk Institute, 31 August 2017

Thank you Professor Crous. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Utrecht, the heart, the very heart of the Netherlands.

2017 is the year of Johanna Westerdijk, whom one could not only describe as the dean of Dutch plant pathologists, but also as the mother of all Dutch female scientists. And - finally - as a sterling fellow of a woman.

Who was, on the one side, a pioneer in her discipline. On the other side a powerful and reliable factor in a network of professionals. Although I also read somewhere that she had to experience the humiliation, that her male tutor undermined her research, to avoid a woman taking her degree with him.

Today's Westerdijk Institute also displays this dual function: on the one hand, as an inexhaustible source of knowledge about mycology in itself. Which is, to me as a layman, a mysterious, but also fascinating world and since my last visit, in June, I know now that fungi are literally everywhere and crucial in all ecosystems. The presence of guests from Wageningen and Amsterdam underlines the importance of the institute’s activities on behalf of agriculture, industry and medicine.

And on the other hand of the Westerdijk Institute, as a part of the network with which Utrecht is distinguishing itself as a city of Healthy Urban Living. In close co-operation with the Academic Hospital, the Princess Máxima Centre, the University of Utrecht and, of course, the Hubrecht Institute, the institute guards the quality of life of the people in the villages and cities of the world. With their united scientific knowledge and experience as their powerful weapons.

For me, it's a great honour to pay tribute, on behalf of our city, to one of our greatest fellow townswomen, who was at the cradle of this fruitful and important co-operation. And no less to the institute that she cared for, that she gave us, and that now bears her name. Thank you very much.