Prof. Dr. Dieter Leonhard
Civil engineer, Rector of Hochschule Mannheim
DAAD Scholarship 1982
"Water is an essential element and plays a key role for humankind," says Dieter Leonhard. Water is also what the civil engineer, who specialises in sanitary engineering, has dedicated his working life to.
We shouldn't want to foresee the future, rather we should want to facilitate it. That's exactly what the one-year scholarship was all about, 'facilitating' much that has accompanied me and perhaps even shaped me to his very day.
The engineer was born in Saarland in 1959. Although he did not know at all what occupation he wanted to take up when he left school, he did know it had to have something to do with the natural sciences. Leonhard gave himself a year to complete various internships and work placements: as a surveying assistant, in a mine near Saarberg, at the State Environmental Protection Office. Only then did he decide to study civil engineering, specialising in sanitary engineering, at Karlsruhe.
After completing his basic study phase, he moved to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Hydraulique et de Mécanique at the Grenoble Institute of Technology, France, supported with a scholarship awarded by the French government and the DAAD. "It was a fantastic time, I profited very much from it, especially from the differences. From Germany, I took the ability with me to work independently. In France, I really enjoyed the small high-performance study groups of an Ecole d’Ingénieur, in which we all worked very intensively," he reminisces.
"Grenoble attracted me because I was able to concentrate on the field of water and hydraulics there. Sanitary engineering has many different sides to it, from flood protection to treating drinking water. And, a look at the future shows that we indeed urgently need to work worldwide on ensuring access to clean water. We need specialists to stop the negative development," says Leonhard. His subject areas are rainwater usage, drainage systems and sewage processing. The professor taught these fields at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences from 1995 to 2008. He was also the founding dean of its Department 1, covering architecture, civil engineering and surveying. In 2008, Leonhard took on a completely new role when he became rector of the Hochschule Mannheim – University of Applied Sciences.
However, as a native of the Saarland, something else is close to Leonhard’s heart: namely, Franco-German understanding, for which he acts as an ambassador. That is why, in addition to giving guest lectures at the University of Pau, he has also run several collaborative crossborder projects with students. Hence, the honorary office that he held from January 2004 to the end of 2008 fits in perfectly with his experience and interests. Leonhard was president of the Franco-German University (DFH) in Saarbrücken. Together with the English studies specialist, Prof Dr Albert Hamm from Strasbourg, and in 2008 with Prof Dr Pierre Monnet, Professor Leonhard was responsible for running the Franco-German University. Although re-elected, he chose to lay down the honorary office in order to concentrate fully on his new responsibilities in Mannheim. In recognition of his commitment to Franco-German relations, he was awarded the title of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in January 2010.
Above and beyond his links with France – since 2012 he has also represented the German Rectors’ Conference on the University Council of the Franco-German University – Dieter Leonhard actively supports international academic exchange: he has been a member of the DAAD Executive Committee since 2012 and speaker of the German University Consortium for International Cooperations (DHIK) since 2013.