On 8 February 2019, scholars from across Europe gathered at the University Foundation in Brussels to celebrate the rich and prolific career of Kris Deschouwer.
Speakers at the event included former ECPR Chair Rudy Andeweg, current Comparative Politics series Editor Emilie van Haute, and ECPR Executive Committee member Petra Meier.
Introducing the speakers to a packed auditorium, Kris’s long-time colleague Eline Severs, who led the event’s organising team at VUB, explained why there had been no shortage of scholars keen to make their contribution to the ceremony:
‘Kris brings people together, inspires and enthuses for research and scholarly collaboration. This is the main reason why so many of us eagerly joined into organizing today’s event.
We recognize that [today’s speakers] shed only partial light on Kris’ extremely rich career and personality. However, the warmth and wit of the testimonies are evidence of the fact that Kris is a highly appreciated and cherished colleague and friend.’
To capture a complete picture of Kris’s character, Emilie van Haute of Université libre de Bruxelles who has known Kris for more than 20 years, canvassed a number of colleagues to discover the attributes most closely associated with the great man:
‘Kris is described as supportive, attentive and constructive. This is especially true when it comes to mentoring PhD students. He can make PhD students look forward to their committee, which is an achievement in itself!
Kris is attentive and works hard to put people at ease around him. What summarizes this, I think, is kindness in the most noble sense of the word. Kris is kind. It is a powerful quality. It came up several times in the survey, as ‘gentil’ and ‘bienveillant’. This, I would hypothesize, is rooted in a deep sense of respect for others.
For Kris, there is no such thing as hierarchy. Everyone is on the same playing field… A whole generation of political scientists has built self-confidence thanks to Kris’ respect for everyone’s ideas and opinions.’
To commemorate the occasion, the organising team put together an illustrated souvenir booklet containing Dutch- and English-language tributes from scholars who have collaborated closely with Kris over the years. In their introduction, they enthuse:
‘There are many reasons to thank and celebrate Kris. He is without doubt an outstanding scholar, standing at the highest rank of our discipline. Kris also has the gift that marks true academic excellence: keeping things simple. This shows in his writings, in which he manages to present even the most complex mechanisms and ideas in concise yet precise wordings.
For many years he has been a key figure in political science in Brussels, Flanders, Belgium, and Europe. That is, of course, because he is excellent. But also because Kris shares, and cares. Kris brings people together, inspires and enthuses for research and collaboration.
Kris has, in this sense, left a definitive mark on Belgian political science. Yes, Kris has published a series of highly evocative book titles on Belgian politics. But his impact on social science far exceeds what we typically regard as scientific output. Kris’ media appearances, especially during times of elections, gave a face and voice to a nuanced political analysis. This inspired young people to study political science.
Kris’ commitment to the European Consortium for Political Research was also pathbreaking and motivated many Belgian scholars to become active members themselves and help professionalize political science.
Kris, finally, taught respect. He chaired a wide range of research consortia. This, in itself forms an important legacy. But those who had the pleasure of working closely together with Kris will remember first and foremost how he chaired these research consortia: with unremitting energy, patience, and kindness; dismantling professional hierarchies for the benefit of open, engaging and productive scholarly exchanges. Kris was the opposite of academic arrogance, and rather the paragon of academic openness.’
All of us at ECPR echo the heartfelt sentiments of Kris’s friends and colleagues as he receives this great honour. Many congratulations, Kris!
Kris Deschouwer will serve as Chair of ECPR’s Executive Committee until May 2021