For 25 years the heart of the uni has been beating behind the Dom
"The idea of a Faculty Club had come over from the United States at the time. There, people were familiar with a club for the 'faculty', the university's academic staff. In the Netherlands, the University of Amsterdam was the first with such a club, with the 'clubhouse' in the historic Oudemanhuispoort."
"In Utrecht, the Executive Board - then under the chairmanship of Jan Veldhuis - asked four professors for advice on a Faculty Club to be set up. Wim Kardux, my boss at the time, asked me if I knew someone who could support this committee. That seemed like a nice job, so I asked, 'Shall I do it myself?' Problem solved. There was a whole laundry list of issues to be advised on: the location, the legal form, the target group, the atmosphere, the operating set-up, possible membership and the name of the club. At the time, with the preparation committee, we visited a series of faculty clubs around the country for inspiration."
A club inspired by the American model
"The club would become a meeting place for the university community, was the idea. But here in the Netherlands this is very different from the US. We discussed this a lot as a board. American universities are often further away from the big cities and have a campus system partly because of this. This involves much more than the Dutch campus. In the American system, the campus is not only for education and research, but also has extensive sports and cultural facilities. And above all: staff and students also live there. Then a faculty club is more natural, and plays a much more obvious role in 'community life'. In the Netherlands, that bond is much weaker."
With a name and a clubhouse...
"After two years of preparation, the outlines of the club were clear: it was to be a society with paying members consisting of scientists, support staff and alumni and with a clubhouse. We characterised the atmosphere as a living room of 'distinguished simplicity'. Jan Wilschut, then director of the Facilities Department, became the location scout. With a van from the Facility Company, we went to visit seven possible locations, in the city centre and in De Uithof. We discussed endlessly whether it should be the inner city or De Uithof. The university's bilocation made that question difficult. In the end, we chose Achter de Dom 7, even though the place did not look very nice at the time with its simple lecture halls with suspended ceiling systems. We chose it mainly because of its connection to the beating heart of the university: the Utrecht University Hall. The Executive Board gratefully accepted the advice of the preparation committee."
As a location, we eventually chose Achter de Dom 7, even though the place did not look very nice at the time with its simple lecture halls with suspended ceiling systems.
Then the 'Utrecht Academic Society Helios' was a fact
"Dop Bär, professor at the Medical Faculty and well known to me as a neighbour and friend of University College, became the first president. Piet Zeegers, director of the then Faculty of Physics and Astronomy, became treasurer, myself secretary, and Medicine professor Willem Erkelens and Albertine Veldman of the Faculty of Law became board members. After a while, Thijs Pollmann, professor at the Faculty of Letters, replaced Willem Erkelens. Like the other four, Thijs remained a board member for many years. In November 1998, the 'Utrecht Academic Association Helios' was a fact: the entire board acted at the notary's office, signed the memorandum of association, and together with the notary raised a glass of champagne to this beautiful result."
Let's get to work on that 'living room'
"We had to get rid of those suspended ceilings, of course. Architect Jaap Dijkman's firm helped with all the details of the renovation and interior design, including the lounge chairs he designed himself. Then it was time for catering. We chose a kitchen that could be used by both Faculty Club and the Academy Building. Until then, the Academy Building hardly had any kitchen facilities, so we killed two birds with one stone. Nice chairs, good food - come on in! In the beginning, membership was a paid membership for everyone. But that posed a barrier, as it turned out in the first few years. And it was also a lot of red tape. So from 2002, all employees and pensioners could apply for a free membership. The Executive Board was willing to supplement the lost revenue in the name of community spirit within the university. For alumni, paid membership remained available."
Indispensable: the man behind the bar
"The range of activities has greatly expanded in recent years, partly thanks to the programme commission. One of its early triggers was Herman van den Berg, then director of the Boswell Institute for Continuing Education and Language Teaching. But in my opinion, the most important success factor is and remains the club manager. Perhaps a somewhat dull name for the indispensable host, organiser, guardian, duffer, but above all the face of the club. The first club manager was Joep Bonenkamp, previously working at the Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement. He was succeeded by Noor van Haaren and later by Sandy van Heerde. That Noor and Sandy already had careers within the university is no coincidence: without that commitment, you cannot fulfil the role of club manager with as much verve as they have done and still do. That also applies, of course, to the man behind the bar: you cannot underestimate how much Ben van de Ben and Pieter de Jong have contributed to the club's atmosphere."
Ineke van Oosten worked at Utrecht University for 37 years. She was the first director of University College Utrecht and then director of the Facility Support Office (FBU/FSC). She was also involved in the Faculty Club from the beginning, first as official support for the preparatory committee, later as secretary and board member.