In accordance with its statutes, the Leopoldina Academy Circle of Friends reg. ass. held elections for the Board and reappointed its Board in January 2021. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the decision could not be made at a members’ assembly scheduled for December 2020, but had to be made in writing.
Prof. Dr Jutta Schnitzer-Ungefug, who retired as Secretary General of the Leopoldina on the 1st of October 2020 after 20 years in office, was elected Chairperson of the Board to succeed the previous Chairperson, Dr.-Ing. Horst Dietz. Dietz was no longer available for this position, but remains a member of the Board. Both Dietz and Schnitzer-Ungefug are among the founding members of the association. Confirmed in their positions were the two Deputy Chairpersons Dietrich Kloevekorn-Norgall, also Treasurer, and Dr Santer zur Horst Meyer, also Secretary. New to the Board is Prof. Dr Reinhard Renneberg, a biotechnologist who was Professor of Analytical Biotechnology at the Hong-Kong University of Science and Technology for 25 years until 2019. Also new is Franziska Hornig, Secretary General of the Leopoldina since September 2020. She was seconded to the Board by the Presidium of the Leopoldina as Schnitzer-Ungefug's successor. The Board also includes RA Michael Schunke, who did not stand for election as his term of office had not yet expired.
In its constituent meeting on the 22nd of January 2021, the new Chairperson Schnitzer-Ungefug thanked her predecessor Dietz for his many years of spirited commitment, who had led the association since its foundation in 2007. It is thanks to his initiatives that the Leopoldina Academy Circle of Friends has been able to develop into an important funding institution for the Academy. Dietz, born in Halle, fled to the Federal Republic of Germany after graduating from high school - still in the days of the GDR - studied electrical engineering and was awarded a doctorate in engineering. He worked successfully in leading industrial companies, most recently as Chairman of the Board of the German ABB. Thanks to his excellent network, he succeeded in winning many members from all over Germany and beyond for the Leopoldina Academy Circle of Friends reg. ass..
This made it possible from the very beginning to provide the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina with support for a wide range of activities, projects and tasks. The Leopoldina Academy Circle of Friends currently has 193 members. It promotes and supports the science and research of the Leopoldina morally and materially. This includes, among other things, the planning and implementation of scientific conferences, the promotion of young scientists in the form of scholarships for students to attend the Leopoldina Annual Meetings, the promotion of scientific achievements through the awarding of the Johann Lorenz Bausch Scholarships and the awarding of a Leopoldina Prize for outstanding young scientists. Among the projects funded in recent years were the reconstruction of the historic ritual room in the Leopoldina's main building on the Jägerberg, which originally dates back to the 19th century Freemason lodge “Zu den Drei Degen” (To the Three Swords), the artistic design of the previously unadorned stained glass windows in the building's foyer, and the installation of signs at the entrance to Halle drawing attention to the seat of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in the city. One of the last projects was the restoration of the overgrown grave site of the XV. Leopoldina President Carl Hermann Knoblauch on the city graveyard in Halle (Saale). It is thanks to Knoblauch (1820-1895) that the Academy took up permanent residence in the central German industrial and university city of Halle in 1878, where it has been settled ever since. Since its foundation in 2007, the Leopoldina Academy Circle of Friends has provided about 650,000 € for Leopoldina projects.
For his services to the Leopoldina, Horst Dietz was awarded Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (“am Bande”) in 2015. In 2013, the Leopoldina awarded Dietz the title Honorary Sponsor, a distinction that honours personalities who are not Academy members but who have made significant contributions in their field to benefit the Academy.
Due to Corona, the handover of office could only take place virtually. A personal tribute by the President of the Academy, Prof. Dr Gerald Haug, will take place at a later date.