December 2020

In Loving Memory

Fred Van Houten

1951 – 2020


Throughout his career, Fred was a creative and innovative man, laying the foundations for a number of ground-breaking projects in the field of Manufacturing Engineering. His ardent support of this industry, from within the University and further afield in surrounding regions, ensured that manufacturing flourished in his home province of Overijssel. He advised industry leaders, helping them develop new technologies and facilitated the placement of his highly skilled and knowledgeable graduates in key roles within the industry. 

Fred believed that engineering needed to be enterprising and socially relevant and to this day, these fundamental principles remain in place as his legacy at the University of Twente (UT). Even now, his department continues to grow and develop because they maintain adherence to those guiding principles Fred put in place in his early days at the University. 

Fred attracted many honours and accolades, among them the Presidency of the CIRP, the world leading organisation for production engineering research. He was a UT Faculty Board member for nineteen years and was Department Chair for 15 years. A prodigious networker, Fred’s connections to industry giants and scientific innovators ensured that his UT graduates received a warm welcome wherever they went. 

Fred was justifiably proud of his achievements, with diplomas, medals and awards lining the walls. The many gadgets and models served as a constant reminder of works in progress and work satisfactorily completed. The quality of the wine bottles in evidence indicated that Fred was a man of discernment and taste. 

His office was also a gathering place, where he would always find time to relax and chat with students or colleagues. An opiniated man, he was not one to waste words. He would rather act than sit around talking about acting. Time was precious and multi-tasking came as second nature to Fred. He would consider an evening out to dinner as an opportunity to pick his colleagues brains and share new ideas. The fact that he could also share a good bottle of red was, to him, a bonus. 

Professor Fred van Houten was a driving force in the creation of the Fraunhofer Project Center (FPC) at the University of Twente, which he supported from its inception. He worked tirelessly on this project for many years, negotiating with all involved parties until the Center became a reality, opening its doors in 2017. Even though Fred had retired by this time, he remained working as a valued consultant to FPC, his steady hand and profound knowledge of the inner workings of industries help to ensure that FPC would continue to grow and thrive. His dedication to this organisation was unquestionable. Two weeks before his death, Fred was still involved in guiding FPC, continuing to promote the centre to industry leaders and investors. 

On his retirement in 2017, Fred van Houten received the Medal of Honour, awarded for his work as Professor of Design Engineering at the University of Twente. This honour is usually bestowed upon people outside the UT who have made significant contributions to the university. It is a mark of the immense esteem in which Professor van Houten was held that he was recognised in such a manner. 

Fred van Houten’s greatest contribution was to the people with whom he came in contact. He took a deep interest in the career development of his students, helping to guide them throughout their working lives. He was loved, admired and respected by his colleagues not only as a leading light in his field, but also as a wonderfully erudite man who was passionate about his field of expertise. He touched many lives through his support of the Engineering Industry, including founding this magazine in order to bring knowledge and enthusiasm for engineering to the masses. 

He was Coby’s loving husband, an outstanding friend to many, a thoughtful, giving mentor and an energetic supporter of brilliant ideas. 

Go in peace, dear friend.