Press Release 020/2024

On the Death of Horst Hippler

The Founding President of KIT and Former Rector of Universität Karlsruhe Died at the Age of 77
2024_020_Zum Tod von Horst Hippler_72dpi
Professor Horst Hippler died at the age of 77. (Photo: Thomas Klink)

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is mourning the loss of its founding president Professor Horst Hippler, who died on March 6, 2024 at the age of 77. In 2002, Hippler was elected Rector of the then University of Karlsruhe. With his idea to establish KIT, he led the university to its first success in the Excellence Initiative competition in 2006. From 2009 to 2012, he headed KIT together with Professor Eberhard Umbach. After that, he was President of the German Rectors’ Conference until 2018.

For photos of Professor Horst Hippler, click this album

“This is a sad day for us. Horst Hippler was one of the great masterminds and pioneers of KIT. For three years, he was KIT’s founding president and headed it with great courage and prudence. He tirelessly engaged for the needs of researchers and students and always remained closely connected to KIT,” says Professor Oliver Kraft, Acting President of KIT. “We are deeply saddened by his death. Our thoughts are with his family. For his extraordinary commitment to KIT and the former Universität Karlsruhe, we are greatly indebted to Horst Hippler and will always honor his memory.

“Without Professor Horst Hippler, today’s KIT would not exist. I was greatly impressed by his visionary power, his vigor, and his high determination as well as by his openness and humor in discussions,” says the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of KIT, Professor Michael Kaschke. “We are grieving with his family.”

With his colleagues in the rectorate of the then Universität Karlsruhe and with the Executive Board of the former Karlsruhe Research Center, Hippler initiated the merger of a state university with a national research center as the first of its kind in Germany. With the idea to establish Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and to disrupt the pillar structure of the German science system, the then University of Karlsruhe was successful in the Excellence Initiative competition launched by the Federal and State Governments in 2006. Karlsruhe University was selected one of only three universities of excellence. On October 1, 2009, Hippler was elected founding president of KIT together with Eberhard Umbach. He significantly shaped the first years of KIT and pushed the merger process in a most determined way. Hippler extended KIT’s collaborations in research, teaching, and innovation and, in this way, largely contributed to the international visibility of KIT. He supported the German-French cooperation within EUCOR, the European Confederation of Upper Rhine Universities (today’s EUCOR – The European Campus), and within the German-French University (DFH).

In May 2012, Hippler moved from Karlsruhe to Bonn and chaired the German Rectors’ Conference until 2018. Before taking over its presidency, he had been President of the State Rectors’ Conference and strongly advocated solid funding of universities. In addition, he actively supported the needs of technical universities. Among others, he was founding president of TU9, the alliance of the nine leading technical universities in Germany, and President of the CLUSTER consortium of technical universities of Europe.

In 1993, Horst Hippler took up work as a professor for chemistry at the then University of Karlsruhe. In October 2022, he was elected its rector after having been the vice-rector for research for two years. Hippler studied physical chemistry at the University of Göttingen and started his scientific career at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Then, he conducted research at the IBM Research Laboratory in San José, USA. His post-doctoral lecture qualification (habilitation) followed at the University of Göttingen.

Since 2009, Hippler has been member of the National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech. He was awarded numerous honors, including the Polanyi Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2006), the Honor of Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (2007), and the Honorary Doctorates of École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (ENSAM, 2011) and Strasbourg University (2016). In 2015, Hippler received the Order of Merit of the State of Baden-Württemberg.

Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 10,000 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,800 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

mle, 08.03.2024

Margarete Lehné
Chief Press Officer (acting)
Phone: +49 721 608-41105
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
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Contact for this press release:

Margarete Lehné
Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-41157
Fax: +49 721 608-41157
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