It isn’t often that the Vice-Chancellor an university gets to make a speech about cake.
But that's exactly what I'm doing today. Because, right now, everyone who has the time is sitting munching birthday cake to celebrate the University’s 50th anniversary.
In Slagelse you have a layer cake on the table. In Sønderborg you’re eating a Dannebrog cake. On the Kolding campus you have no fewer than four different cakes to choose from. Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, Esbjerg and Odense, there is traditional Danish brunsviger cake on the menu.
We have bought more than 11,000 cakes. So I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to help yourself to two slices and enjoy them while I say a few words.
First I would like to take you on a journey back to 1966, when it all began.
Frank Sinatra topped the hit parade with ‘Strangers in the Night’. In the United States, President Johnson was waging two wars – one in Vietnam and one in space, where it was all about being the first to reach the moon. England won the World Cup, beating West Germany in the final.
Here in Denmark the Pill was legalised and the working week was reduced from 45 to 44 hours.
The baby boomers of the 1940s migrated from the countryside to the cities, and by 1965 10% of 20 year olds were graduating from high schools. Meanwhile, more girls were signing up for higher education.
This all led to a decision by politicians to establish a third university and to locate it in Odense.
So, my dear birthday boy, you were a planned child. Nevertheless, in your early years you experienced a degree of adversity.
Your birth weight was low. At the official inauguration, exactly 50 years ago, a mere 180 students had enrolled.
And, just as in many other families, there was probably also some sibling jealousy. You had to put up with quite a bit of teasing from your big brother and sister: the old lady in Copenhagen and Mister Grumpy in Aarhus.
Compared to them, you certainly didn’t take up much room. You had an academic team of 12 professors and 25 other teachers. A mass meeting of the administrative staff only required 16 chairs.
It didn’t make things any easier that, now and again, you found it hard to attract qualified teachers.
But you never gave up – not even when, a few years later, you were occupied. In the spring of 1977, a group of students occupied your administrative premises out of sympathy with their fellow students at Roskilde University. In Roskilde, the Government were planning to do away with the foundation course in Social Sciences.
For three days, about 50 students camped in the administrative premises in Odense. But their occupation was to come to an abrupt halt. At 6.30 in the morning, the dynamic Rector, Aage Trommer appeared with the officers of the law. This invasive liberation force dragged the sleepy occupiers out of their sleeping bags and sent them out into the fresh morning air.
But the biggest crisis in your fledgling years was probably in 1988, when an austerity committee appointed by the Ministry suggested phasing out medical studies in Odense.
Fortunately, that idea did not materialise and bit-by-bit you grew until – in 1998 – you took the decisive step and, by merging, you became SDU.
Now you were a fully-fledged adult, and in 2006 you merged again with the Odense Teknikum school of engineering. The following year saw the establishment of the Slagelse Campus, and the National Institute of Public Health also became a member of the family.
Today you extend from Copenhagen to Sønderborg. There is no longer any question about whether you’re big enough. All you need to do now is continue doing your utmost to remain at the top of the class. You don’t need to be a paragon of virtue, but you must focus on making sure that other people in society reap the benefits of your knowledge.
Meanwhile, if from time to time you get a little nervous about all the demands you have to meet, I can assure you that you are surrounded by staff and students who only want the best for you. Every day they turn up at the offices, laboratories, classrooms and other places, making a huge effort to help things go well.
I think both you and I should be very grateful to them.
I would like to conclude my speech by quoting the University's old Administrator Bengt Bengtson. In an interview in the Fyens Stiftstidende newspaper on 15 September 1966, he said:
“We know that the country will be watching Odense University closely in the coming years and will be expecting their share of any new solutions we come up with. In Odense, we have the best opportunity to create a students’ university.”
I fully believe that, both here and on the other campuses, we have succeeded.
Let’s hear three cheers for SDU. Hip hip hurray! Hip hip hurray! Hip hip hurray!
Thank you for listening.