“To me it seems as if I have come full circle today,” a visibly moved Prof. Bernd Engler stated last Tuesday (11 October) in his inaugural speech as the new President of the Global Ethic Foundation. The incumbent Eberhard Stilz ceremoniously handed over the baton to the former rector of the University of Tübingen. Just one week earlier, Prof. Engler had retired from the university.
It is a circle that has its origins in 1992 and shows that Prof. Hans Küng, the father of the Foundation, probably already suspected at that time that the 68-year-old could one day become an ambassador of the global ethic idea. No sooner had Engler arrived at the University of Tübingen, did he find a handwritten letter from Hans Küng in his letterbox. In this letter, Küng expressed his conviction that Engler’s research in the field of American Studies would be an ideal fit for his much-loved project of Global Ethic. Hans Küng’s open, interested manner impressed the newly appointed president of the university even then, and an exchange between them, which remained alive over the years, ensued. Now, some 30 years later, he takes up this office “with a sense of humility.”
Engler wants to continue to assist the Foundation to find its spot nationally and internationally and to seek cooperation with other relevant institutions. He also emphasized that, at the same time, the necessary structures are in place to guide the Foundation into a successful future. Much to the delight of all present, Irene Dias-Küng and Rita Frei-Küng, Hans Küngs sisters, were among the guests at the ceremony in addition to the Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees as well as the employees of the Foundation. They had taken the long journey from Switzerland upon them for this ceremonial occasion, also in order to express their gratitude to Eberhard Stilz.
As the first president after Hans Küng, he took over a very difficult legacy, but “mastered this task with flying colours,” as Dr. Stephan Schlensog, Secretary General of the Global Ethic Foundation, summed up. According to Dr. Schlensog, the well-connected Stilz was an ideal ambassador for Global Ethic ideas and provided valuable impetus for the further development of the Foundation. In his farewell speech the 73-year-old Stilz shared that his heart was full that evening. He was in charge of the Foundation’s fortunes for more than nine years. It is especially through the Global Ethic Schools project that his name will remain closely associated with the Foundation.
“He rests in himself and lets results speak for themselves,” Klaus Leisinger, founder of the “Global Values Alliance” Foundation, emphasized in a tribute to his long-time friend Stilz. It is this calm with which Stilz set out months ago in search of a successor, pointing towards the only man with whom he would entrust the office that day. “If you can’t find anyone better, I’ll do it,” Engler is reported to have said. This, Stilz noted with a smile, made any further search superfluous.
Afterwards, the guests sat together for a couple of hours for a drink, exchanged ideas, got to know each other and reminisced on past moments. All participants were united by one certainty: this evening would have meant a lot to Hans Küng.