Ceremonial handover of the office of rector at Aalen UniversityScience Minister Theresia Bauer inaugurates Prof. Dr. Harald Riegel in his new office and says goodbye to Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider

The speakers at the ceremonial handover of the rectorate (from left to right): Dr. Karl Lamprecht, Chairman of the University Council and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG, former Rector Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider, Rector Prof. Dr. Harald Riegel, Minister of Science Theresia Bauer and Prof. Dr. Dr. Bastian Kaiser, Chairman of the Rectors' Conference of the Universities of Applied Sciences in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: Sandro Brezger

We, 01. June 2022

With a ceremony in front of around 150 guests from politics, business and science, Prof. Dr. Harald Riegel was officially inaugurated yesterday as rector of Aalen University. He is the successor to Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider, who retired after two terms in office at the end of December 2021. The university welcomed Baden-Württemberg's Science Minister Theresia Bauer as a special guest, who also gave the evening's speech.

In his welcome speech, the Chairman of the University Council and the President and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG, Dr. Karl Lamprecht initially acknowledged the extraordinary commitment of Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider: “Our heartfelt thanks go to Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider. Through his great passion and enormous commitment, he has been extremely successful in developing and aligning Aalen University. During his time in office, the university has reached a new level with its size, performance, and international recognition.” Groundbreaking milestones such as the innovation center INNO-Z, the explorhino, the Graduate Campus, the new research buildings ZiMATE and ZTN and the forest campus currently being built are all achievements based on his foresight and his hands-on action. "Aalen University has enormous appeal and is an important building block, here in the region and beyond," emphasized Lamprecht.

Minister of Science Theresia Bauer echoed the words of praise from the Chair of the University Council: “The fact that Aalen University has developed into such an important institution in the university landscape of Baden-Württemberg and throughout Germany over the past decade and a half is thanks to Prof. Dr. Schneider. Aalen University is extremely important for the state in terms of the strategic issues of sustainability and climate protection. Outstanding examples of this are the ZiMATE and ZTN research buildings.” Minister Theresia Bauer also thanked Schneider on behalf of Minister President Winfried Kretschmann for his work as rector and on the board of the Baden-Württemberg Universities of Applied Sciences (HAW BW e.V.): “You’ve earned lasting merits for developing  the entire university and science environment in Baden-Württemberg. Let me say – and this is no exaggeration – that an era is coming to an end.”

Also Prof. Dr. Dr. Bastian Kaiser referred in his speech to Schneider's great achievements. “He has developed the university far beyond the previous university tasks. It has become an important condensation center for the entire region for innovation, for the development of skilled workers, the transfer of knowledge and for a wide range of socio-political impulses," emphasized the Chairman of the Rectors' Conference of the Universities of Applied Sciences (HAW) in Baden-Württemberg. The “outskirts on the eastern edge of the country” used to be a disadvantage for any form of development, but this has now been reversed with and through the university. "Gerhard Schneider played a big part in that."

In his farewell speech, Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider thanked everyone for all the words of praise and said: "I have to put some things into perspective, because it's always a team effort. And we have a strong team here that works for the university and is extraordinarily committed. I had the privilege of getting to know many people and of being able to shape things - I am very grateful for that." Schneider, who held the office of rector for 14 years, congratulated his successor heartily: "As a long-standing vice-rector and outstanding researcher, Harald Riegel was already committed to Aalen University in recent years and will now also play a decisive role in shaping the future of the university as rector."

Minister of Science Theresia Bauer wished the new rector and his rectorate team good luck and always a happy hand: "You already know the university inside out and certainly don't need to follow in the footsteps of your predecessor. Cultivate your personal style, go your own way. It is now in your hands to further develop and expand the excellent position of Aalen University.” According to Lamprecht, Riegel has already intensively helped to shape and advance many things that make the university shine today and set the course for the future. "The university council is looking forward to continuing the excellent cooperation with him." HAW board member Kaiser also praised Riegel as an "experienced university lecturer and very successful researcher who will give new impetus and initiate projects".

Since the beginning of this year, Prof. Dr. Harald Riegel is the rector of Aalen University, which he has known for a long time. After holding positions in industry in Germany and abroad, the physicist has been a professor in the Faculty of Mechanical and Materials Engineering since 2009, has successfully set up the Laser Application Center (LAZ) and was vice-rector for seven years in charge of teaching, communication, and international relations. "I am very pleased to now also be in charge of the fortunes of Aalen University," said Riegel in his inaugural speech and thanked his predecessor: "It is a great gift to be able to take over such a well-cultivated field." The past five months since he took office have been incredibly exciting. "I learn something new every hour, so to speak," smiled Riegel.

The new rector sees one of the main goals of his office as being to further develop the strengths of Aalen University. Because only what gets better stays good, Riegel is convinced. Here he relies on a joint further development of the strong alliance at municipal and regional level as well as with the companies in the region. "It is fundamentally important to develop other attractive courses in close cooperation with the industry," emphasized Riegel, referring to the bachelor's course "Mechanical Engineering/Digital Production" starting in autumn and the planned master's course "Sustainable Management" as examples of this.

Mastering digitization using methods of artificial intelligence and machine learning and promoting energy-conscious and resource-saving action are particularly important to him. "As one of the strongest research universities for applied sciences, we make our contribution, and we conduct research in various areas on these important topics." It is important to support the transformation processes with application-oriented research and to design the corresponding transfer to the industry. In general, knowledge transfer at the university should be practiced for society as a whole, said Riegel. And with reference to explorhino, the research center for pupils and the Graduate Campus, he added enthusiastically: "Actually, we are a university for life - from early childhood through studies to our diverse range of further education opportunities."

Riegel, who studied and worked in the USA for several years, pays special attention to the further internationalization of the university. "Stays abroad are of fundamental importance for personality development and qualify our graduates as employees for globally active companies." He thanked all university members for their trust: "I am happy to have many new ideas and fellow campaigners in the further positive development of our university to work - so that we can continue to have a strong position in the growing national and international competition in the future."