On September 13, 2017, we first crossed paths in a small meeting room at the Royal Military Academy of Brussels, Belgium, just before the commencement of the 26th annual meeting of our society, the ETRS. We were both new board members, and I vividly recall you sitting right beside me. At that time, you held the position of President of the International Proteolysis Society, and your unwavering commitment to our society’s work was unmistakable. You were never hesitant to express your opinions and offered staunch support to others when you concurred with their viewpoints. Your profound insight and visionary approach to collaboration signalled that your role within our society would be significant.
In 2019, as Phil’s term as President concluded, it was evident to many of us that you were the natural choice to assume the presidency. Your vision for the society’s future was clear and all-encompassing. One of the central pillars of your vision was to emphasize the importance of engaging young investigators, recognizing their role in shaping the future. Unfortunately, these plans were thwarted by a well-known adversary, the pandemic. You undertook the formidable responsibility of guiding our society through the challenging COVID era. A succession of pandemic waves cast a shadow over event planning and gatherings. The scheduled annual meeting in Lyon had to be postponed twice, but during this time, you made every effort to maintain contact among our members. We organized virtual events and worked tirelessly to sustain our connections. Your contributions as a motivator, organizer, and source of inspiration were invaluable, and I am confident that you would have taken pride in the success of the pre-conference day for early career researchers at the most recent meeting, as well as in the previous year.
You served as President, I as the treasurer, and Ursula Mirastchijski as the secretary; the three of us constituted the executive board and held numerous formal and informal meetings to ensure the continuity of the society’s activities. Though Ursula cannot be here today, I am certain that I echo her sentiments when I express our profound sadness at no longer being able to share memorable moments with you. What I will forever cherish are the moments we shared, be it over delectable meals, fine wines, beers, or simply in the embrace of friendship. It is only fitting that the only pictures I have of you are snapshots of our wonderful ETRS friends relishing good food and drinks, for the sense of community was always paramount in your heart.
I believe I speak on behalf of us all when I say that your absence leaves an immense void within our ETRS community. We will forever remember you as a remarkable leader and a cherished friend. To your wife Caren, your children, and your family, I can only offer these words: You can take pride in what Ulrich meant to us, and please feel free to reach out to reminisce about Ulrich together.
Peter Moortgat, Antwerp
Ulrich’s passing is just so incredibly sad! My thoughts go out to his family and friends at this very difficult time.
I’ve known Ulrich for many years and really got to know him well when he joined the ETRS board in 2017 and I was the then President. What instantly struck me about Ulrich was his commitment, insight, willingness to get involved and the fact that he was great fun to be around. Indeed, I remember many an occasion sat in a bar somewhere in world having a beer, getting our heads together to work out new ideas around how we could support and grow the ETRS. Of course, this was always punctuated by much joking and laughter – but that may have been due to a few too many beers! Hence, I was extremely pleased when, in 2019, Ulrich succeeded me as President of the ETRS – he did an amazing job steering our society through the COVID-19 pandemic!
His legacy, both scientific and as a passionate supporter of new researchers, will live on and he will continue to be an inspiration for many researchers to come.
Farwell my friend, I will never forget you.
Phil Stephens, Cardiff
We are filled with sadness and cannot really comprehend that he is no longer with us.
Ulrich joined our board in 2017 and became president in 2019. He has been a dedicated board member all along, coming up with inspirational suggestions for our society and willing to aid in organisation and promotion of the society. During his presidency, he steered our organization through the challenging years of the pandemic with remarkable determination.
When he applied for a board position, his pledge stated that “By becoming a member of the ETRS board, I want to give something back to the society and help in maintaining and further expanding this outstanding network of researchers dedicated to tackle a major unmet medical need with devastating impact on the quality of life of an increasing number of people.”
This clearly shows his character, a visioner aiming for genuine impact while staying modest and giving others the possibility to shine.
We lose with him a wonderful person, passionate scientist, great leader, and true friend.
Our hearts go out to his wife and children at this difficult time. His absence leaves a void that can never really be filled.
On behalf of the ETRS board,
Willeke Daamen, Nijmegen
Ulrich was very kind, interested in other people, with an open mind. His enthusiasm to get people involved is exemplified by his attempt to get me to present my research at the WUKO congress. WUKO is a conference on wound healing in Germany and it is mandatory to present in German. He had once managed to get Phil Stephens to present in English but that was not much appreciated at WUKO. Ulrich reasoned that given the fact I am Dutch and our languages are rather similar, it shouldn’t be a big problem for me to present in German. However, speaking German at a scientific conference is beyond my capabilities. Ulrich was simply challenging me, as a good investigator looking for new opportunities.
Ulrich war sehr freundlich, er interessierte sich für andere Menschen und war aufgeschlossen. Sein Enthusiasmus, Menschen einzubeziehen, zeigt sich in seinem Versuch, mich zu überzeugen, meine Forschung auf dem WUKO-Kongress vorzustellen. WUKO ist eine Konferenz zum Thema Wundheilung in Deutschland bei der Vorträge ausschliesslich auf Deutsch gehalten werden. Einmal war es ihm aber gelungen, dass Phil Stephens seinen Vortrag auf Englisch vortragen durfte. Aber das wurde bei WUKO nicht besonders geschätzt. Ulrich argumentierte, dass es für mich kein großes Problem sein sollte, auf Deutsch zu referieren, da ich Niederländer bin und unsere Sprachen ziemlich ähnlich sind. Auf einer wissenschaftlichen Konferenz Deutsch zu sprechen, geht jedoch weit über meine Fähigkeiten hinaus. Ulrich forderte mich als Forscher lediglich heraus, nach neuen Möglichkeiten zu suchen.
Bouke Boekema, Beverwijk
Thank you for 25 years of wonderful collaborative research!
Sabine Werner, Zurich
The passing of Ulrich auf dem Keller came as a complete shock to me. I met Ulrich a few years ago at the congress of the European Wound Management Association in Paris. This was my first international congress and the first time I presented my research to a large audience. There was a special session from the ETRS where Bouke Boekema introduced me to Ulrich and the other core members of the ETRS. Right from the start I felt very welcome in this community and especially Ulrich was very kind to me as a young researcher. We met at several other occasions such as the ETRS meeting in Lyon. During this time he was the president of the ETRS and I knew him as an enthusiastic, open and inspiring person with great interests in research and sympathy for young investigators such as myself. It was only a short time, but I want to thank him for sharing his wisdom and for everything he did for the ETRS community. I offer my heartfelt condolences to Ulrich his family, friends, and co-workers.
Patrick Mulder, Beverwijk