VUB honorary rector Caroline Pauwels dies after lengthy battle with cancer
Professor of communication sciences and honorary rector Caroline Pauwels passed away on Friday, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) has announced.
The 58-year-old mother of two died at the UZ Brussel hospital, which is affiliated to the VUB.
She stepped down from her role of university rector earlier this year due to her declining health. Pauwels had been suffering from stomach and oesophageal cancer for several years.
Among the many tributes from the university to its widely-respected honorary rector, executive board chairman Karsten De Clerck said: "Caroline's death leaves the VUB with great sadness. She was a warm and engaging personality. A great inspiration with a clear vision. Her commitment did not only apply to the VUB, but to society as a whole. She used all her energy to connect people until the end."
Her elected successor Jan Danckaert paid homage to her decision-making, her compassion and the priority she gave to “connecting the VUB with the international, diverse and multilingual character of Brussels".
After studying philosophy at the UAntwerp and communication sciences at the VUB, Pauwels worked briefly for the cabinet of then European Commissioner Karel Van Miert before returning to the VUB.
She obtained her PhD in 1995 for research focused on the audiovisual policy of the European Union. She subsequently became a professor, contributing numerous publications in the field of communication and media.
From 2000 to 2016, Pauwels was director of SMIT, a research centre specialising in the study of information and communication technologies, part of the iMinds network. She was awarded the domestic Francqui Chair by the University of Ghent in 2014 and held the Jean Monnet Chair between 2012 and 2016.
In addition, she sat on various boards of directors, was government commissioner at the VRT and a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and Arts.
In 2016, Pauwels was elected rector of the VUB, the second woman to hold the position. In 2020, she was re-elected with an overwhelming majority and in the same year, she was ranked fifth in a study of Thought Leadership in Flanders.
At the request of Pauwels, her funeral will be a private family ceremony.