Apart from the same surname, the connection between the three gentlemen is easy to spot. Grandson Hans Dekker (computer sciences), father Joost Dekker (applied chemistry) and grandfather Bert Dekker (applied sciences) bring up one wicked memory after another in exactly the same way during the conversation. This trio is clearly on the same wavelength.
Hans: “Look, the lectures are recorded these days so I skip one once in a while.”
Grandpa Bert: “Watch out, your father’s sitting next to you.”
Hans: “Hah, I don’t think he was an angel.”
Father Joost laughs: “I have to admit that I spent more time at first at the club than in the lecture halls. But I did do a lot of self study. I always had friends who were doing the same course so we got through it together.”
Grandpa Bert: “Well in that case, I have something to admit too. I think I only attended 30% or 40% of my lectures.” He adds defensively that “in our subject it was quite usual that only 20% attended.”
‘If you went in your eyes started watering’
Despite the fact that the gentlemen did not always attend their lectures in person, they all did fairly well in their exams. Even though the circumstances were not always the best. “I once did an oral exam and the professor had a room in the cellar of the Gele Scheikunde building,” remembers Father Joost. “He smoked cigars there all day long. If you went in your eyes started watering.” Grandpa Bert says that in his day, it was common practice for professors to try to put students at ease by offering them cigarettes. Now this is completely different. The campus will even be completely smoke free (in Dutch) in a couple of months.
Much has clearly changed since Grandpa Bert and Father Joost studied at TU Delft. The biggest difference, they say, is digitisation. Hans confirms this. “I can ask questions whenever I want. Many subjects even have a teaching team that answers your questions and some teachers hold walk-in times when you can just drop by.”
Grandpa Bert’s mouth drops. “In my time, professors were gentlemen of a certain status. I never dared talk to them! Except for Professor Kramers. He was an exception. There was a completely different atmosphere in his department. He was a real comrade to about 30 students.” There were long waiting lists for admittance, Grandpa Bert saw when he signed up for a research spot under Professor Kramers. He had to wait for at least six months for a place. “I didn’t mind at all. While waiting I registered for an economy internship. When Professor Kramers heard this, he said ‘if you’re that keen, then you can start next week’. I then had to choose. I chose Kramers and did the internship later.”
Working while studying
While they did not really need to do so, all the Dekkers worked while they were studying. Grandpa Bert says that he “worked out of principle. Not only for the money, though it was fine having double the monthly stipend to spend, but mostly because I believed that you should have some experience of working in a company when you graduate”. He worked for a long time at the development department of a company, for a few months as a labourer (I wanted to know what it was like on the shop floor) and did military service. “When people graduate now, to my mind they are a little green. If they do a few internships, they have more experience. In the end, I studied at TU Delft for seven years, two of which were spent on other activities.”
He thinks about what he said and turns to his grandson. “Hans, maybe you should just forget what I said about those seven years.” Father Joost laughs. “I always had a good stipend. My parents lived abroad so I was here by myself. Of the seven years that I was here, I also spent two years doing other things. I have to be honest. But Hans, you need to forget what I said too. However, I did several jobs for companies while I was studying. I did this intentionally and to get a glimpse behind the scenes.” Grandpa Bert adds “And you worked as a taxi driver”. “Yes,” says Father Joost, “I worked for a school for children with behavioural problems. I drove the buses as and when needed. I also worked nights at a printer, inserting folders into newspapers. As soon as I was finished I went straight to the club to spend that hard earned money.” “That’s good,” says Grandpa Bert, “not only are we three generations of TU Delft students, but we are also three generations of Delftsch Studenten Corps. I was the first in line.” “But,” adds Father Joost, “we didn’t all take this for granted. Hans thought about it seriously for a long time.” Hans explains that “I became a member in my second year. I first wanted to get my binding study advice.”
'The club first, then TU Delft’
With so much history at TU Delft, it is hardly surprising that there is much talk about TU Delft at family gatherings. Grandpa Bert has nine grandchildren, three of whom are toying with the idea of studying at TU Delft. “Though the oldest now says that ‘if there are so many family members at TU Delft, I’m going to the University of Wageningen’,” he chuckles. He himself is still closely involved with TU Delft. “I’m a member of the University Fund and if they put on an interesting trip, I go with pleasure. I recently went to QuTech – so damn interesting!”
Father Joost recognises his father’s enthusiasm. He himself worked for a couple of years at an internet start-up at Yes!Delft, whose premises was then on the Rotterdamseweg. “Hans played on the floor with Lego,” he remembers. The three regularly share articles on technology. Grandpa Bert was even involved in the development of the flying car. For his birthday, Hans will get a share in the company. “Keep an eye on it,” grins his grandfather.
The Professor’s handshake
For Hans, now in his second year, the finish line is still a long way to go. But to some extent, he knows what to expect. “Up until now my best memory is the first week, when everything started and was new. I think that graduating will also be amazing.” Father Joost smiles when he thinks back to his time. “It was such hard work and then getting your degree is so wonderful.” Grandpa Bert adds that “You know what the biggest disappointment is? Nobody ever asks for it! But I still have mine though.”
For Grandpa Bert, his time with Professor Kramers was the most memorable. Everyone got together at a set time for coffee in the department. “There you sat, among the best brains solving the world’s problems. I sometimes continued thinking about these discussions in the evening. It was wonderful.”