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UC3M Medals of Honor


UC3M Medals of Honor

The highest honor awarded by the University to individuals and institutions

The inauguration of the 2014-15 academic year highlighted the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) 25th anniversary celebration. The ceremony, held on September 12th in the Getafe campus auditorium, recognized a quarter-century of history in the University’s awarding of Medals of Honor to individuals who “have contributed vitally to our growth and consolidation in the Spanish and European university scene,” according to UC3M Chancellor Daniel Peña.

Medals of Honor are awarded by the University board of directors and are the highest recognition that the University can bestow on relevant persons and institutions. This occasion honored three former presidents (Juan Rojo, Juan Urrutia and Rodrigo Echenique) of the UC3M Social Council, the university governing body whose primary goal is the participation of society at large in the university.

Medals were also awarded to Pedro García Barreno, who contributed to the academic development of the University through his work as UC3M Deputy Chancellor for Biomedical Engineering, and Ángel Gabilondo and Cristina Garmendia, two former ministers who have contributed to the development and improvement of the Spanish university system with the International Excellence program.

Six Medals of Honor

Juan M. Rojo Alaminos was the Secretary of State for Universities and Research for the Spanish government from 1985 to 1992, representing Spain in the European Union’s Council of Ministers of Research. At present, he is a permanent member of the Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences. During the ceremony, the spotlight was cast on his work starting in May 1989 as the first president of the University board of directors, the forerunner of the current Social Council, which established operational guidelines, flexibility and the hiring of professors who now distinguish UC3M. “That forerunner of the Social Council did not hesitate to use the legal resources available to attract talent to the Universidad Carlos III…and at this moment in the history of the University, I believe it is no overstatement to say that it achieved its goal,” he remarked in his acceptance speech.

Juan Urrutia Elejalde traveled to Madrid at the beginning of the 1990s to contribute to the creation of the UC3M and he became the first president of the Social Council. “It was a relatively brief presidency, but it made me think about the university, an institution I have served for nearly my entire professional life,” he recalled in his acceptance speech, in which he stressed the role of the Social Council, comparing it to a hinge. “If a Social Council is important and must be cared for, it is because it is a hinge which, if not well oiled, will not be able to prevent a struggle arising for control of territory between university and business or social communities in general,” he remarked.

Rodrigo Echenique Gordillo, who is currently president of the media group Vocento, president of the NH Hotels group and board member of the Banco Santander, warmly remembered the recently deceased Emilio Botín. Echenique was president of the Social Council from 2001 to 2008, substituting Juan Urrutia Elejalde. During the ceremony, his work as an element of attracting resources and sponsors for the university in his active collaboration with private companies was highlighted. In his speech, he expressed his “belief in university commitment” and remembered that “although we have conquered reality, we must not lose our dreams.”

Pedro García Barreno is a surgeon and an expert in molecular biology, and is responsible for the lowercase “a” in the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his work as Deputy Chancellor in the establishment of the new Biomedical Engineering degree, which he described as an “advance of a future yet to be written.” In his speech, he thanked other colleagues who collaborated to create the Biomedical Engineering degree, an “original adventure that this university so valiantly undertook, breaking established molds.”

Cristina Garmendia Mendizábal, Minister of Science and Education in Spain from 2008 to 2011, established the State Strategy for Innovation and the Severa Ochoa Excellence Awards. She was awarded the Medal of Honor for her efforts on planning the International Campus of Excellence, among other things. In her speech, she gave thanks for the support of her colleague, Ángel Gabilondo, and the former Vice-President of the government, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, who was in attendance. She also expressed her conviction that the university could be the motor behind the change needed in our model of production. “Universities like this one receiving us today are actively working to this end, preparing young people who are competitive in the job market thanks to their knowledge and skills, contributing new knowledge to the development of sectors vital to our economy every year and trying to interact with society to better understand its needs,” she said.

Ángel Gabilondo Pujol, who was Minister of Education from 2009 to 2011 and Chancellor of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid from 2002 to 2009, was also one of the catalysts of the International Campus of Excellence program. In his acceptance speech, he noted how pleased and honored he was to share the distinction with “such extraordinary individuals whom I greatly appreciate and value,” and that his recognition should coincide with the awarding of doctorates honoris causa to María Blasco Marhuenda and Mario Vargas Llosa, “science and letters sharing the stage,” he said. “UC3M,” he added, “is solid  proof that we need an open and plural vision of science, in its most human and social dimension, that technique must not be reduced to technocracy, and that we must be committed to and insist on improving, changing, modernizing, internationalizing.”