On August 4, 2022, VUB Honorary Rector Paul De Knop passed away. Colleagues, former students, people who had the pleasure of working with him, friends, acquaintances... For many, Paul was an inspiration, an icon, a warm personality who touched people with his optimism and drive. This is also clear from the many initial reactions to his death.
Karsten De Clerck, Chairman of the VUB Board of Directors: "We are not only losing an icon of the VUB, who lifted up the university tremendously on an administrative, financial and academic level. We also lose a strong personality with a big, warm heart. The VUB owes a lot to Paul. His quick thinking, his dynamism, his versatility. Always committed to the VUB, also after his rectorate and during his illness. We will miss him dearly."
Jan Danckaert, rector VUB: "We are going to miss Paul tremendously. His drive, his work ethic and optimism, his passion for the VUB. Until the very end, he was committed. He laid the foundation for the future of the VUB and its further growth. His passing saddens me and the VUB community immensely."
Prof. Marc Noppen, CEO of UZ Brussel: "Paul's legacy is impressive. Not only as an academic, professor and rector, but also and especially as a human being I have come to know and appreciate Paul. I have seldom seen anyone deal with his ultimately incurable illnesses with such willpower and voluntarism. Partly because of this, his bond with the UZ Brussel and its various initiatives in the field of clinical scientific research, fundraising and innovation has become so intense. We lose not only the prorector, but also a close friend."
Prof. Evert Zinzen, Dean of Physical Education and Kinesitherapy VUB: "What a battle you fought! As we knew you, you tried with all your enthusiasm and positivism to bring this "file" to a successful conclusion. However, the chances were too bad. We say goodbye to you with beautiful but also less beautiful memories. We did not always agree and that sometimes clashed but the mutual respect remained intact! Much strength to your family and loved ones because in addition to the professional Paul, they lose a husband, father, grandfather! We will miss him. As Bram Vermeulen sang: "I am only dead when you have forgotten me" I can state that you are far from dead in our minds!"
Prof. Dirk Devroey, Dean of Medicine and Pharmacy VUB: "With Paul De Knop, the VUB loses not only a great academic but also a driven administrator and entrepreneur. But above all, Paul was a warm colleague who supported cancer research and gave a place to the role of the cancer patient. Much strength to his family and friends. "
Patrick Van Kerckhove, Honorary Fellow of VUB: "A rector with a heart for VUB and GO! A manager who, at the right moment, was put in charge of VUB to give voluntarism some operational foundation. A not always rewarding but very necessary task. Paul was no backbencher in GO! He was not afraid to take difficult decisions. Thanks to Paul's stone, the course of VUB and GO! was adjusted for the better. Thank you for that!"
Jimmy Van Moer, General Manager Green Energy Park asbl: "We are losing a great man who we will miss dearly. We can look back on the many inspiring moments he gave us and we are truly grateful for his unconditional support. Being able to realize his dream is a great honor for us. Our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends."
Sport Vlaanderen: "Besides his career at the VUB, Paul De Knop also had a strong impact on the (top) sports policy of Flanders. Rest in peace, Paul. Sincere condolences to family, friends and former colleagues."
Herman Van Goethem, Rector UAntwerpen: "It is with emotion that I think back to the warm, engaging and charming man that Paul was. A sharp mind, with vision, who brought people together and connected them, and who further developed his university with mild leadership. The way he carried his illness rightly won great admiration. My sincere condolences to the entire VUB, and especially to Mrs. De Knop, children and grandchildren. May the friendship of so many and the memory of all the beautiful things he accomplished and for which he stood, be of support to them."
Luc Sels, Rector KULeuven: "A jovial and sincere man, Paul De Knop. A rector who was very fond of the collaboration with KULeuven. Much strength to family and friends, and to the many VUB students who will undoubtedly cherish special memories of Paul."
Rik Van De Walle, rector UGent: "An exceptionally stylish, warm, talented and driven man has passed away. It was a privilege to know him. I will never forget his encouraging messages, even when he himself was having a hard time. Thank you for who and how you were, Paul."
Sven Gatz, Brussels Minister of Dutch-speaking Education: "My thoughts go to Paul De Knop & family. Academician-entrepreneur, as he rightly described himself. He ameliorated the VUB infrastructure as rector. A self-made man. Nice guy. Strong sportsman as well. He even played with Juan Lozano in the Uefa Juniors."
Caroline Gennez, President University Association: "I got to know Paul at the beginning of the century. He, the visionary doer, athletic and academic, politics behind the scenes. Me, the young MP with a passion to make the world a better place AND start with sport. Our paths crossed, and I admired his commitment to making the VUB the first university to combine top-level sports and studies. Top athletes go to extremes, students sometimes as well. The passion for one should not stand in the way of the other. And Paul simply broke down barriers, the VUB became a trendsetter. For many years Paul would remain the fast beating heart of his VUB. When Paul was rector, he asked me to become president of the University Association, our Brussels partnership with the Erasmus University College. Paul was vice-chairman together with Luc Van de Velde. I learned to appreciate Paul even more as rector. I got to know him as a man with vision, courage, perseverance, strategic insight, a leader in all respects. But I also got to know Paul as a person: empathetic, inspiring, good company, a friend in every sense. We shared a passion for sports and education. On both fronts there is still much room for improvement in Flanders and Brussels. This can be done in small steps, but always with a larger and more ambitious goal in mind. That was Paul too: pragmatic and structured, always with a view of the further horizon. Everywhere he went Paul made a difference, sometimes at the most unexpected moments. An anecdote. Because of his many sports, Paul had to undergo hip surgery at a relatively young age. The day of the operation a UAB meeting had been scheduled for which his secretariat had logically excused Paul. But who was the first to arrive - on crutches to endure the pain - in the meeting room on the third floor: Paul! He had probably also taken the stairs...Superhuman, that was Paul too. He moved mountains and to bring the VUB to the top of the world, he literally climbed them. With the first cells of the lingering disease already in his body, he planted the VUB flag on the top of Mount Everest. Paul was a one-of-a-kind. He was a rare combination of soft and hard: working hard, tearing down walls, building a lot, but always bridges, often with a gentle hand, affably and without raising his voice. Paul was an inspiration and mentor to many, including me. The entire VUB community will miss Paul terribly. We need more Pauls. The world would be a better place. I wish Paul's family and all friends a lot of strength. Let's cherish the wonderful things he accomplished together."
Els Ampe, People's Representative (Open VLD): "Paul De Knop was rector-builder, inexhaustible source of energy. I met him as a student representative of the VUB and was immediately impressed. Great loss of a strong person. Strength to family and friends. I am so sad."
Ben Weyts, Flemish Minister of Education: "All support to family and friends of Paul De Knop. Besides his role as rector of the VUB, he also meant a lot to the (top) sports policy in Flanders, among other things, as former chairman of the Board of Directors of Bloso, today Sport Vlaanderen."
Bert Anciaux, Senator (Vooruit): "It is with great regret and sadness that I learn of the passing of my good friend Paul De Knop. A great rector of VUB, a fantastic sportsman, a wise doer, such a loyal friend. This hurts so damn much. Much strength and support to Chantal and the children."
Dixie Van De Wiele, Head of the Movement and Sports Department at VUB: "This is painful... Paul's battle has been fought. He continues the work in higher spheres. Thank you Paul for all the inspiration and energy you have given me over the past 40 years. From my first gymnastics camp as a young boy where you took care of the evening entertainment to our collaboration in recent years regarding my position as Head of Movement and Sports at the VUB. I will miss you, but grant you a well deserved rest."
Ann Van Driessche, Director Marketing & Communication VUB: "Paul fought like a lion to the bitter end. It will surprise none who knew him. For me he was an inspiration, a friend, the reason I came to the VUB. He was also my support and anchor. The past seven years not a week went by without us having a chat together, physically, by phone and lately only via whatsapp. He was a fantastic rector but above all a fantastic person, warm, friendly, concerned, always driven and with numerous projects on the radar. (...) I am sad but at the same time very grateful that I could have had Paul on my path. Much strength to everyone who knew him. It is a black day for all of us and a black day for the VUB."
Ingrid Knaepen, VUB staff member: "A person simple in conduct (for him always a sandwich with cheese), but great in deeds, always friendly, with the necessary strictness. Walking into the office in the morning in his cycling outfit, with his words. "Those coming from far away, here are the earlier birds hey". Thanks for knowing you and what you have accomplished. Strength to the family, hopefully you will draw some strength from all our messages."
Aushim Koumar, former student VUB: "I first met Paul De Knop in 2010 as a young 20-year old student, when he gave our volunteer organization Edukado a huge boost by becoming godfather of the organization and by offering us a lot of unique opportunities. On a personal level, he was one of the most inspiring figures with whom I have had several tremendously engaging conversations. He pushed me forward by telling me to believe in myself, set the bar high and use my enthusiasm to bring change to the world, which I have been trying to do in my humble way ever since. Paul, I am just one of many whom you have greatly inspired through your drive, your optimism, your leadership and your good heart and these memories will live on and make an impact around you. Thank you Paul."
Ellen De Smet, former VUB student: "My sincere condolences and sympathy for the much too early passing of Paul. An incredible man, inspiring, charismatic and innovative. It still feels like a privilege to have been taught by him and will never forget him."
Alain De Greef, former VUB student: "There are people who really make a difference in your life, who are real mentors. Paul De Knop, the professor with whom I did my thesis, is undoubtedly someone who has meant a lot to me. For 35 years. I looked up to him. He was an example and an incredible sounding board. He asked the right questions and always had a razor-sharp analysis. He was an inspiration, had a dry sense of humor and was also an excellent skier. Beautiful memories. I wish his family and friends much strength. All the best to you Paul."
Elke Wauters, former student at VUB: "Thank you for being my professor... you taught us a lot of wisdom and came to pick us up at the train as top athletes when we had to travel back and forth for competitions. The chats and support you offered us while doing so I will never forget.... Rest in peace..."