TUM Emeritus of Excellence Gerd Wegener
“Every tree counts”
For Gerd Wegener, two things have been particularly important in his life: the sustainable use of wood and the education of young people to become responsible architects of our future. To this day, the TUM Emeritus of Excellence is committed to both.
Professor Dr. Gerd Wegener is a sought-after expert in the forestry and timber industry. His inquisitive spirit has resulted in numerous new technologies and products that have been highly appreciated by both science and industry. Already in the 1970s, Gerd Wegener understood the immense importance of wood – which can be processed into high-strength and high-performance materials while being a renewable resource. “The earth’s forests and the renewable raw material that is wood are essential elements of a sustainable environmental and climate policy,” he emphasizes. “The global preservation and increase of our forests therefore deserve the highest priority: every tree counts.”
Intelligent use of Timber
As an institution of TUM, Holzforschung München (HFM) conducts university education, research and development. In his role as its longstanding director, Gerd Wegener expanded the research scope of the Chair of Wood Science and has initiated many field-oriented research and development collaborations. Together with the German Aerospace Center, for example, a major joint project succeeded in converting wood into technical ceramics – and thus into a high-performance material that is renewable.
Gerd Wegener also relied on wood as a natural material in the construction industry. He developed wood-based building panels and building products. For the timber industry, he provided life cycle assessments and ecological drivers for products and production lines.
Safeguarding our Future
The crucial issue of sustainability stands out in all these projects. In research and teaching, Gerd Wegener never tired of emphasizing the great importance of wood for a sustainable future. Wood and wood-based materials are the much-needed alternative and supplement to fossil-based and non-renewable building materials such as concrete, steel, aluminum and plastic. “In terms of energy expenditure and true cost, wood is far superior when compared to other materials,” Gerd Wegener explains. “Building and living with wood is active climate protection.”
Building and living with wood is active climate protection.
Gerd Wegener placed particular emphasis on one strategy for the future: young people. After all, it is them who, through a sound scientific education coupled with practical experience, will responsibly shape the world of tomorrow. For Gerd Wegener, interacting with them at the institute, whether they were students or employees, was his lifeblood. “I have always gained a lot from them myself,” he recalls. “But I also liked being a role model.”
In 2010, Gerd Wegener retired. But since then there has been no sign of resting. After his retirement, his dedication to and respect for young scientists moved him to establish the Gerd Wegener Travel Scholarship for young students in the Forest Sciences. Since 2012, the scholarship has been awarded ten times and has supported TUM students in projects abroad in Canada, Chile, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Iran, Nepal and South Africa with 1000 euros each.
Today, Gerd Wegener is still valued at TUM as a competent and objective advisor in selection procedures and evaluations. In 2014, he was named TUM Emeritus of Excellence by the President of TUM for his outstanding academic achievements and ongoing commitment. The honorary title has been awarded once a year since 2006 to distinguished and particularly committed scientists and scholars as well as to those who are present in public eye in order for them to remain actively connected to the university in a variety of ways. “It was a particularly great honor for me to be included in this illustrious circle of TUM Emeriti of Excellence, and even more so as the first ever from the Forest Sciences,” Gerd Wegener stresses. “This recognition of my achievements holds particularly high value for me.”
Prof. Dr. Gerd Wegener
Director of Holzforschung München 1993-2010
In 1964, Gerd Wegener enrolled at TUM to study Civil Engineering. At the end of his undergraduate studies, he transferred to the University of Hamburg for the less math-based study of Wood Science. With that, he had found the subject he would spend his life on, and in 1970 he decided to take on a scientific position at the Chair of Wood Science and Wood Technology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. This was followed by a doctorate in Forestry (1975) and a habilitation in Forestry and Wood Science (Habilitation Award of LMU 1986). From 1993 to 2000 he was a full professor for Wood Science and Wood Technology and Head of Wood Research at LMU. Even when the LMU institute was transformed into one of TUM’s in 2000 and incorporated into the newly established Weihenstephan Science Center for Nutrition, Land Use and Environment (now TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan), Gerd Wegener remained its Director until 2010.
Gerd Wegener has held numerous appointments as a visiting lecturer all over the world, and has been active as a consultant and in the evaluation of national and international projects and research programs. For twenty years he was editor in charge of the European Journal of Wood and Wood Products and of Wood Science and Technology. He is co-author of the benchmark book “Wood” (1984). Gerd Wegener has been a member of many scientific communities and committees. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Zvolen, Slovakia, and in 2005 an honorary doctorate from the Forestry Academy of Saint Petersburg, Russia. In 2009, he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit and the main Schweighofer Prize for his life’s work. This was followed in 2016 by the Bavarian State Medal in Gold for outstanding services to the Forestry and Wood cluster. In 2019, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the International Academy of Wood Science for outstanding services to the advancement of Wood Science. Based on his outstanding achievements, then TUM President Wolfgang A. Herrmann appointed him TUM Emeritus of Excellence back in 2014.
Even though he has been retired since 2010, Gerd Wegener is still actively involved in matters relating to the timber industry and wood research. But he now does have a little more time to go to the theater with his wife, to concerts and readings, and to travel. As often as possible, they are spending time with their seven grandchildren.