Interview with Professor S. Bruin and Dr. C. Bruin-Kühn
“I wanted to give back to the university. Once, a fund made it possible for me to study here. What was missing was a fund that focuses specifically on innovations in the field of food technology. Professor Leniger is one of the founding fathers of this discipline in the Netherlands and also means a lot to me personally.”
The Leniger Bruin Kühn Fonds was created in 2008 by Professor S. Bruin and his wife, Dr. Bruin-Kühn. Solke Bruin graduated from Wageningen in 1965 and promoted in process technology four years later. He set up the Leniger Bruin Kühn Fund on Name in 2008.
“When I started my studies in 1958, my father had just lost his job in Indonesia. I could no longer fully pay for my study but thankfully received a grant from the government for its duration. It was never an issue that I was a competitive rower for WSR Argo and a member of the senate of WSV Ceres. For this reason, I wanted to give back to students who, due to no fault of their own, accrued a study debt.”
Encouraging joint co-operations
Bruin is familiar with university education. He was professor at Wageningen University for a few years before switching to a corporate career at Unilever in 1980. He returned to university education in 2001 when he became extraordinary professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. “A second motivation was that I wanted to encourage joint co-operation among the chair groups in the fields of food technology and food safety. Currently, innovative research is taking place at the edges of these disciplines,” Bruin explains from experience.
It was a given that the fund be named after Professor Leniger. Leniger developed the food technology discipline from the field of agrarian technology in the Netherlands. “He was a charming and courteous man that could make razor-sharp analyses of situations. He was inherently shy and I never saw him angry. But he was staunch in his belief: this is how it should be,” tells Bruin. Bruin saw Leniger as a father figure. “Like me, he also suffered through a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia during WWII. Leniger was in Java conducting technological research on tea, I was born on Sumatra in 1940 where my father was manager of a palm oil plantation.” Leniger encouraged him during his studies and Bruin later became his successor when Leniger was made rector magnificus of the former agrarian institute of higher education.
Promoting and supporting innovation and excellence
Cecilia Kühn, Bruin’s wife, also joined the fund. She is food technologist and an independent innovation expert who worked many years as a product developer for companies. “I help find fitting technology for innovations in industry.” She is also a guest professor at Wageningen University. “It strengthened my decision when I saw how Wageningen University Fund managed this fund,” Kühn explains. “I saw that it was going very well. Besides, I also studied very internationally for which I thankfully received many well-needed grants.”
Kühn’s roots lie in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and she studied in Canada, the U.S. and Germany. “I come from a third world country and have been very lucky. I grabbed my chances with both hands and thankfully received grants for my studies. This is the reason I want to contribute to talented people.” Kühn’s participation in the fund extended the fund’s scope to include Latin American researchers.
“Our goal is to promote and encourage innovation and excellence with this fund. Students and professors are offered the chance to develop through the colloquium series that takes a look beyond a discipline’s border and through sabbaticals for researchers and university professors. Educating professors creates a multiple effect: when you help a teacher then they can move their students forward,” says Kühn.
Solke Bruin and Cecilia Kühn hope that the Leniger Bruin Kühn Fonds induces others to be of meaning to this discipline. Namely, the fund’s activities are financed from its return on investment. Thus the higher the return on investment, the more activities that can be supported. Bruin says, “The chair groups have to propose the activities themselves so that we can finance something that is really needed.”
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