(Pauline van der Meer Mohr, 55, President of the Executive Board of Erasmus University Rotterdam)
“Today is my last day serving as President of the Executive Board at our wonderful university. In 1984, I graduated at Erasmus University myself. Studying law certainly wasn’t my ultimate goal; more than anything else I wanted to be a musician! I’ve played piano all my life and later the cello. But reluctantly I faced the fact that I just wasn’t talented enough for the international concert stage. “Go to law school”, my father advised when I had problems choosing an alternative. “Then you can do anything you want to.”
I really enjoyed studentlife, but it was only in my 3rd year that the importance of the constitutional state – of human rights and democracy as the basis of our civilisation – began to interest me. Suddenly I saw career prospects in this field. After graduating, I worked as a lawyer for a while; years in which I learned a great deal about jurisdiction and dealing with clients and colleagues. However, that daily ‘arguing in court’ didn’t bring out the best in me. I sought a more constructive way of dealing with the law.
Do you know that African motto: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to get far, go together! That’s my motto in work and private life. I want to encourage organisations and people to fulfil their potential and flourish; like a flock of geese who each have their own wings, but fly in the same direction as a team.
Eventually I got involved with management and administration. I worked for Shell, TNT and ABN AMRO, among others. Since 2010, I have been the President of the Executive Board of my alma mater. I drew from my own student days. I used to miss a decent campus, with a lot of facilities where it was nice to hang out. My fellow students and I used to hang out in town. So a nice, lively campus was one of my objectives! I am enormously proud of what we have achieved, with the Erasmus Pavilion as the bustling heart and a theatre to host music and performances. This offers the opportunity to bring more art and culture to what is essentially a business campus.
The best part of these years? For me, that was undoubtedly the Centenary party. A year filled with unforgettable events with special people. To celebrate 100 years RSC, the Hermes Houseband performed with the Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestra in the Doelen. It was such a wonderful evening. A formal, but on the same time dazzling party. There were people from all generations, the oldest being in their nineties. The connection with each other was tangible.
So today is my last working day at Erasmus University. Very appropriately, my cello teacher will be giving a small concert in the theatre and the rest will be a delightful surprise. To be honest, I’m not keen on being in the spotlight. Never a problem when I am in my professional role but when it’s really about me… (laughs) But this time, I’ll just have to go with the flow!
What am I going to do now? I’ll rest for a couple of days. Over the past thirty years, I sometimes worked eighty hours a week. That’s over now. But I do have an interesting portfolio of supervisory and monitoring roles. My youngest son still lives at home and jokes that I’ll become a housewife and doing the laundry. That’s good – it keeps my feet firmly on the ground.”