Distinguished Alumnus 2013

Speech to Distinguished Alumnus 2013 – Jens Erik Sørensen

Dear minister, dear...

 Though it has been said before, it can never be said too often: Educating qualified graduates is the university’s greatest service to society. The greatest source of pride -  for the university and for me personally - is seeing how our alums contribute to leading and changing our society. With their vision, their ambitions, and their enthusiasm.

To express this pride in the clearest possible terms, Aarhus University established the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008 on the occasion of the university’s 80th anniversary. The award is given in recognition of individual alumni who have made a particularly distinguished contribution to society and whose example serves as an inspiration to us all.  So far, five recipients have been honoured. The first Distinguished Alumnus was His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Last year the award went to former ambassador Birgit Storgaard Madsen, who is with us here this afternoon.

Today, it is my great honour to present the 2013 Aarhus University Distinguished Alumnus:  Jens Erik Sørensen, director of ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum and MA from Aarhus University.


-Dear Jens Erik,

Some people never quite find their niche in life. Others leave no question in our minds: they’ve landed exactly where they belong.

Beyond a doubt, you belong to the second group.

When you talk about art, your hands are like brushes painting your words with eager and colourful strokes. And as expressively as the paintings you love, your career as museum director communicates the passion you bring to your work.

You graduated from Aarhus University in 1979 and became a curator at Aarhus Art Museum. Five years later, you became director of that same museum. It was about this time that ambitious plans to create a major new art museum in the middle of Aarhus began to take root.

After twenty years of planning, you finally witnessed the inauguration of the ARoS we know today. A museum that is renowned for putting on world-class exhibitions, and that has succeeded in drawing visitors from near and far.

Your relationship to museum guests is one of the signature colours in your palette. Even as a student, you were already driven by a strong desire to strengthen museums by opening art up and making it accessible to a broad audience.

Your drive to bring art to the people is so strong, in fact, that we don’t even have to visit your museum to experience it: urged by HRH Crown Prince Frederik, you have also taken on responsibility for the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibit, which literally brings art out into the open to be experienced in a new context.

Throughout your career, you have maintained a connection to your academic roots at Aarhus University. You often work with scholars at Art History, and you contribute to the education of PhD students in the field.

I am therefore extremely pleased to be able to to name you, Jens Erik Sørensen, the 2013 Aarhus University Distinguished Alumnus. Congratulations!