The University of Stuttgart has three new honorary senators: Eberhard Hinderer, Martin Litschel and Dr. Helmut Schelling, founders of Vector Informatik GmbH as well as benefactors and members of the board of trustees of the Vector Foundation. At the award ceremony on 25 July 2022, Rector Prof. Wolfram Ressel paid tribute to their non-material and material support of the University of Stuttgart, their many years of personal commitment, and their exemplary achievements.
In his speech, Ressel justified the decision to award the honorary senatorship: “Eberhard Hinderer, Martin Litschel, and Dr. Helmut Schelling have remained closely connected to the University of Stuttgart and their alma mater. As founders and managing directors of the innovative company Vector Informatik GmbH and now as benefactors and members of the board of trustees of the Vector Foundation, they have been doing exemplary work for many years. They hold the members, the research achievements, and the activities and projects of the University of Stuttgart in high regard. Their continual efforts towards a cooperative collaboration between science and practice are exemplary. With the appointment of these three dedicated men as honorary senators, the University of Stuttgart honors their achievements and shows its gratitude for their outstanding identification with our university”.
Education and professional career
Eberhard Hinderer graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Stuttgart. He then worked as a development engineer at Kontron and Hewlett-Packard. After completing his apprenticeship at Robert Bosch GmbH, Martin Litschel remained employed as a skilled worker, attended the Technical High School in Stuttgart, and then took up studies in electrical engineering at the University of Stuttgart. After successfully completing his studies, he worked as a development engineer at Bosch. Helmut Schelling studied electrical engineering and earned his doctorate from the University of Stuttgart before working as a development engineer at Bosch.
Together, Schelling, Litschel, and Hinderer founded Vector Informatik GmbH in Stuttgart in 1988 and managed the business aspect until February 2014. Vector Informatik now employs more than 3000 people at 30 locations worldwide. Since 2014, the three have been benefactors and members of the board of trustees of the Vector Foundation, which is active in research, education, and social commitment.
Vector Foundation supports projects at the University of Stuttgart
At the University of Stuttgart, the Vector Foundation initiated by the three new honorary senators funded more than 40 different projects with almost €10 million between 2013 and 2022.
- In research, these include:
the “Tiny Endoscope 3D” project in which Prof. Alois Herkommer and Prof. Harald Giessen, together with their teams and Australian research institutions, are developing a 3D-printed micro-optic with a diameter of only 125 micrometres. This will serve as an endoscope for the early detection of strokes and heart attacks
the Cyber Valley junior research group “Biomedical Microsystems” led by Dr. Tian Qiu, which is developing artificial intelligence (AI) based medical hardware in order to improve minimally invasive surgical tools and procedures
- In teaching, these include:
the “MINT-Teacher-Lab”, [DE] a modern school classroom of the Professional School of Education, in which the training and further education of teachers in mathematics, computer science, natural and technical sciences, and technology is to be improved
the "Let US start!” project, which involves expanding the start-up culture and anchoring entrepreneurial skills in teaching.
Festive academic ceremony
The ceremonial conferral of honorary senatorships to Schelling, Hinderer, and Litschel, which had to be postponed because of the Corona pandemic, was a festive yet informal academic ceremony. The 40 guests from various areas of the university, Vector Informatik, Vector Consulting, and the Vector Foundation as well as companions of the three honorees were given an insight into their lives and work through anecdotes, speeches, and personal exchanges – all framed by jazz music and humorous pictures and films.
Prof. Helmut Schönenberger, alumni of the University of Stuttgart and now Vice President for Entrepreneurship at the TU Munich, and Dr. Eric Heintze from the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Science (ENI) at the University of Stuttgart, gave the laudatory speech. “We have great respect for your entrepreneurial achievements,” Schönenberger told the three honorary senators. “By not resting on your laurels but rather nurturing the next generation, you are great role models for our university and hopefully many more entrepreneurial generations to come”, said Heintze. “The way you supported the start-up sector at the University of Stuttgart with ‘Let US start!’ and in Baden-Württemberg with the Gründermotor initiative, provided good advice, and contributed as role models, was highly valuable”.
“This laudation and this applause have truly humbled us”, said Dr. Helmut Schelling after being honored as an honorary senator. “The secret of our success was the triple top formation from the beginning. We don’t have a ‘primus inter pares’, and we modified decision proposals until there was no longer much resistance from any of us. The values of fairness, honesty, and loyalty towards employees and customers have always been central”.
Martin Litschel said: “We thank you for the great honor. The appointment as honorary senators took us by surprise. I was moved by what was just said about us in the greeting and the laudation. You’re never quite aware of everything you’ve done. That makes it all the more gratifying”. He told an anecdote about how a professor at the University of Stuttgart had taught him punctuality. “If a student was late for a lecture – even in a full large lecture hall – he would stop talking, walk all the way across the lecture hall, and greet them personally with a handshake. It was something you wanted to experience only once”.
Eberhard Hinderer, who had brought along his old hard plastic student ID card with a hole pattern and told of the job he had at the IT Department coding punch cards, emphasized that the three had learned much of what they had done over the years at the University of Stuttgart: “We are extremely grateful to our alma mater."
By awarding an honorary senatorship, the University of Stuttgart honors those individuals who have provided outstanding services to the university through their many years of commitment. The honorees receive a certificate and medal, become members of the University of Stuttgart, and are able to attend senate meetings.