The 2023 University Development Cooperation (UDC) Career Award was given to Professor Georges Eisendrath. Professor Eisendrath was seen as the embodiment of what the UDC Career Award stands for: nurturing partnerships and being an inspiration to others.
The VUB International Relations office launched the UDC Career Award back in 2020 to acknowledge VUB staff and their contribution towards university development cooperation. The general objective of the award to celebrate someone not just for their commitment to university development cooperation, but also for nurturing an extensive network with partners in the Global South, and to have remained accessible and provided access to this network to the VUB community. This year’s event was moderated by former Vice-Rector Internationalisation, Professor Romain Meeusen, and included testimonials from Cuba’s Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas, the Embassy of Cuba to Belgium, Moi University from Kenya, VLIR-UOS, and various VUB colleagues.
Professor Emeritus Bernard Manderick and Professor Ann Nowé, who submitted his nomination file, stated: “Georges Eisendrath devoted a large part of this VUB career to various VLIR-UOS initiatives. Twice he was coordinator of a VLIR IUC programme, and one of a Network. He was a pioneer in connecting universities in the Global South to the internet, and to install intranet. Nowadays this is taken for granted, but 25 years ago actors in the North needed to be convinced. Two examples are the University of Nairobi (Kenya) which got connected to the internet in 1998, and UCLV in Cuba. The situation was exceptionally hard in Cuba due to the American economic boycott, but eventually the Cuban authorities were persuaded to share the narrow bandwidth with UCLV and Network Cuba ICT, and Georges played a role in this process.”
Georges Eisendrath was a pioneer in what is today called e-Learning/Distance learning. As the 2020 UDC Career Award recipient, Professor Edilbert Van Driessche points out, “he greatly contributed to the creation of awareness about the importance of ICT in modern education, both on campus and in distance learning. He is also the founding father of the VLIR-UOS Network programme aimed at strengthening the further development and role of ICT in Cuban universities… His enthusiasm, dedication, leadership and expert knowledge are highly appreciated by all those who know him.”
Professor dr. ir. John T. Githaiga from Moi University in Kenya, states: “Professor Eisendrath is known to me since 2006 at the inception of the Moi University IUC programme…We appreciated Georges’ vision, wisdom, kindness and charisma while tackling insurmountable challenges for scholars, managers, leaders, supervisors and promotors. Under his guidance, we earned numerous spin-off projects and networking opportunities with other VLIR-UOS-supported projects… Georges became a solution provider, problem-solver, mediator and pacifier. Many students, scholars, researchers, and stakeholders would attest to this.”
These words are echoed by Professor Peter Waiganjo Wagacha, from the University of Nairobi, who adds, “Georges provided great leadership to the programme that was able to realise a large number of PhD and MSc graduates who have been instrumental in supporting the University of Nairobi’s teaching, research and extension mandates. His commitment and energy towards all these project activities was phenomenal. I believe that the University of Nairobi is indebted to him. The collaboration and partnerships built during his leadership and project involvement are alive today.”
Georges Eisendrath is an engineer by education, and conducted research on various ICT-related topics such as optical recognition of characters and texts, computer-managed and computer assisted instruction for mathematics and sciences in bridging courses between secondary and university education, and eventually between 1983-2009 was director of the VUB multimedia unit and later VUB lecturer on the use of multimedia. From 1997 onward he was involved in a number of VLIR-IUC projects. And even when he officially retired in 2014, he kept up the work and his involvement with these. He saw early on how e-learning platforms were important to university education in the South and motivated academics in the North to share their expertise.
Professor dr Rafael Bello Pérez from the Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas in Cuba sums up his work with Professor Eisendrath, “During all these years he has shown admirable dedication, responsibility and organisation. I have rarely seen a person who can successfully combine administrative, financial and scientific management as he has done. I think that this is due to his high preparation and the love with which he has worked during all these years. His actions were not limited to the academic field; he was always very interested in expanding our work possibilities, favouring contact with other experts, and even favouring the relationship with other projects that he directed in other countries. This recognition is only a part of all that Georges should receive for such extensive, dedicated and successful work in favour of the development of international cooperation”
A warm congratulations from the entire VUB community to Professor Georges Eisendrath!