29.01.1966

A university needs friends

On 29 January 1966 – more than three years before the foundation of Bielefeld University – over seventy prominent figures from public and economic life meet at Bankhaus Lampe in Bielefeld to found the ‘Westfälisch-Lippische Universitätsgesellschaft – Verein der Freunde und Förderer e.V.’ (University Society). These friends and supporters come from all over East Westphalia-Lippe and include several members of the founding committee of the University as well as representatives of the cities of Herford, Paderborn and Detmold, which were defeated in their bid to become University towns. The inaugural meeting elects the industrialist Rudolf-August Oetker as chairperson and the Mayor of Bielefeld, Herbert Hinnendahl, as his deputy

  • The inaugural meeting of the Westfälisch-Lippische Universitätsgesellschaft (University Society) on 29 January 1966 in the Lampe Bank in Bielefeld. Professor Dr. Helmut Schelsky explains the plans for the University

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld. NEG R 1.24_1_4
  • raise a toast to a successful foundation: District President Ernst Graumann, the District Administrator of Lippe, Heinrich Drake, and Rudolf-August Oetker. In the background Ewald Kipper, Director of the Bielefeld branch of the ASTA-Werke, who in December 1960 launched the first initiative in support of a University in Bielefeld.

    Photo: Borowka
    Source: Stadtarchiv Bielefeld
  • Impressions from the inaugural meeting on 29 January 1966 (I): The Mayors of Bielefeld and Herford, Herbert Hinnendahl and Kurt Schober, in conversation with Helmut Schelsky and Rudolf-August Oetker (from left).

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG R 1.4_4_2
  • Impressions from the inaugural meeting on 29 January 1966 (II): Radio interview by journalist Werner Höcker (from the West German public broadcasting company WDR) with Helmut Schelsky and Rudolf-August Oetker.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG R 1.4_3_1
  • Impressions from the inaugural meeting on 29 January 1966 (III): Radio interview by journalist Werner Höcker (from the West German public broadcasting company WDR) with Helmut Schelsky and Rudolf-August Oetker.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG R 1.4_2_3

Since the state government announced its intention to found a university in East Westphalia, the political, economic and civic leaders of the largest city in East Westphalia had been trying to form an association with the primarily function of supporting Bielefeld as the only possible location for the establishment of a University in the region. When it became apparent that Bielefeld’s bid was going to be successful, a “small circle” surrounding Hinnendahl and Oetker pressed ahead with the formation of a working committee in 1965. The committee saw its role as providing politically impartial, intellectual and financial support to the University in East Westphalia, and soon became an important contact for the planners of the University headed by the Minister of Culture, Paul Mikat, and Helmut Schelsky.

In his speech at the inaugural meeting, Rudolf-August Oetker emphasised that the board of the University Society would try to overcome the differences of previous years that had arisen between the competing cities. He believed that the soon-to-be founded University needed support from all towns and cities in the East Westphalia-Lippe region and all sections of the population regardless of denomination, profession and ideology.

Forging links, supporting the university

In the following years, the University Society successfully pursued its statutory goals of promoting the Westphalian-Lippe University and deepening the relationship between science, business and civic society. Among the University Society’s initiatives was the organisation of two splendid university balls, one held in Bad Salzuflen on 7 September 1968, and another at the “Gesellschaftshaus” in Bielefeld on 28 January 1972.

  • Fighter for the common cause: The Representative of the Minister of Culture of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia for Organisational and Administrative Planning of the University in East Westphalia, the Bonn University Chancellor, Eberhard Freiherr von Medem, with Rudolf-August Oetker.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, NEG R 1.30_1_5
  • First University Ball 1968: The managing director of the University Society Werner Glahe, the chairperson of the founding committee of the University Ernst-Joachim Mestmäcker, Maja Oetker, Hildegard Hinnendahl, Bielefeld’s Mayor Herbert Hinnendahl and the chairperson of the University Society Rudolf-August Oetker.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01485
  • First University Ball 1968: Maja and Rudolf-August Oetker.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01486
  • First University Ball 1968: The chairperson of the founding committee, Ernst-Joachim Mestmäcker on the dance floor.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01505
  • First University Ball 1968: At a crowded cold buffet, Hildegard Hinnendahl assists Rudolf-August Oetker.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01507
  • First University Ball 1968: Ernst-Joachim Mestmäcker, Werner Glahe and Helmut Schelsky.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01506
  • Second University Ball 1972: The Rektor of the University, Karl Peter Grotemeyer welcomes the guests, among them Rudolf-August Oetker, Heinz zur Nieden (Director of Anker-Werke), local reporter Lothar Wönckhaus and University Chancellor Dr. Eberhard Firnhaber.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01504
  • Second University Ball 1972: Future FDP Major of Bielefeld, Gisela Schwerdt, and the Law Professor und future Minister of the Interior Werner Maihofer, also a member of the German Liberal Democrats, make a “liberal” dancing couple.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01487
  • Second University Ball 1972: Rektor Karl Peter Grotemeyer, Herbert Schnoor (Undersecretary at the Ministry of Education NRW), Renate Firnhaber, Maja and Rudolf-August Oetker.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01503

Even today, after more than 50 years and its renaming in the anniversary year of 2016 to “Universitätsgesellschaft Bielefeld” (Bielefeld University Society), the association is still building bridges between the University and the people of the city and region. It is strengthening links between the University and business, promoting teaching and research, facilitating events to promote dialogue, organising cultural programmes, facilitating internationalisation, and sponsoring competitions for excellence in teaching and research.