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Donors and foundations of the University of Freiburg

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The foundation is an old institution and can look back on a long tradition at the University of Freiburg . In 1497, Johann Kerer, professor of theology and priest in Freiburg , founded the Collegium Sapientiae, one of the most significant and oldest hostels in the city. Kerer’s devotion to his times and his fellow human beings inspired many others to establish foundations and still serves as an example in our times. Today, people still acknowledge the importance of supporting science, research, and teaching with money. Donors achieve their goals by endowing the university with direct donations, competitions, awards, or scholarships according to an individual and concretely formulated charter. The objectives of a foundation stem from the personal experiences, inclinations, and interests of its donor. Thus, every foundation bears the personal and unchangeable stamp of its founder.

The university and its employees and students have been funded and supported by foundations almost from the very beginning. Even the founding of the University of Freiburg in 1457 was made possible by an endoment from Archduke Albrecht VI of Austria, ruler of the western territories of the Habsburgs. The economic basis of the university in the early years consisted largely of endowments from Albrecht VI and funds from parishes in Breisgau, the Alsace, Switzerland, and Upper Swabia.

The motives that lead people to establish a university foundation are numerous and vary depending on the needs and interests of the times. Up until the 17 th century, foundations were usually motivated by religious concerns. They were the product of the belief that one could achieve salvation through a willingness to make sacrifices and compassion. Other donors had enjoyed the support of foundations themselves and felt obligated to give something back. Other motivating factors for the university’s early donors were a feeling of responsibility for academics and the true faith.

After a period in which foundations were not very plentiful in Germany due to wars and poverty, their number began to rise again towards the end of the 19 th century. This period was characterized by a steady increase in donations for medicine and the natural sciences. The primary intent of these donations was to improve the research facilities at the university and to promote the exchange of students and researchers with foreign universities. These donations also favored certain professorships. In the course of time, wars and currency reforms finally decimated the fortunes of most of the older foundations to the point where they were no longer able to serve their original purpose. In order to use the remaining funds as effectively as possible in the spirit of the intentions of original donors, 69 of these old foundations were formally dissolved in 1963 and combined to form a new foundation named “Vereinigte Studienstiftungen Verwaltung” (United Academic Endowment Holding).

In our times, in which the government is no longer in the position to provide all of the funds needed to invest in the future, foundations are again on the uprise. In recent years, the University of Freiburg has repeatedly become heir to private fortunes.

The University of Freiburg is supported by a wide range of prominent foundations. Together, they promote all disciplines and thus all faculties of the university.

Thanks to various foundations, the university owns houses that can be rented to students and employees of the university, plots of land for agricultural use, and even forests (including a wildlife preserve), a fishery on the Feldberg (Mathisleweiher), a historic black forest farm from the late 17 th century, and vineyards which produce very popular wines.

These foundations owe their existence to people who left their fortunes to the University of Freiburg in order to support research and instruction in as straightforward a manner as possible.

It is no longer possible to imagine daily life at the university without foundations. They promote science and research and provide students and young academics with scholarships, research stipends, financial aid, and awards for excellent achievement. Foundations for medicine, for instance, help fund research on cancer and other incurable diseases.

As an institution whose purpose is to prepare the young generation of today for the challenges of tomorrow, the foundation is integral in maintaining the national and international position of the university in education, instruction, and research.