Anyone that knew Alfred Oberholz immediately mentions not only his enthusiasm for innovation and his passion for thinking in unusual categories, but also his ability to motivate others to do the same. Whether in his professional life or his many honorary engagements, he brought new things forward. On February 2nd, Alfred Oberholz died unexpectedly at the age of 59. He has left a large gap.
Alfred Oberholz was born in 1952. He studied chemistry at the RWTH Aachen, Germany, and did his Ph.D. with Professor Hammer and Professor Keim. He became a member of DECHEMA in 1977. His professional career started in 1980 at the Chemische Werke Hüls, Marl, Germany, in the process engineering department. After having held several positions, he became a member of the board in 1998. From 2001, he was a member of the board of Degussa AG and from 2007 to 2008 a member of the board of Evonik Industries AG, Essen, Germany.
Throughout his life, Alfed Oberholz also worked in honorary capacities. He maintained close ties with his university and was chairman of RWTH’s university council. From 2002 to 2008, he served on the board of trustees of the Fonds der chemischen Industrie, from April 2006 as its chairman. From 2004 to 2009, he was chairman of DECHEMA and from 2006 to 2008 chairman of ProcessNet, the joint platform for process engineering of DECHEMA and VDI-GVC. After his retirement, he worked for regional projects like InnovationCity Ruhr that aims at establishing an energy efficient model region.
In all his functions, whether professional or honorary, progress was close to his heart. He always kept the actual issue in focus and did not accept structural limitations. An example was his driving role in the establishment of ProcessNet, which he promoted with fervor; his speech at the annual meeting 2005 before the final start of ProcessNet will not have been forgotten by those attended. The current shape of the European platform SusChem, where he was chairman from 2005 to 2008, is a result of his initiative and ideas. When he thought that cooperation would be useful, he brought disciplines and organizations together. Early on, he recognized the growing importance of Asia and especially China and established contacts between Germany and China during his many journeys. He also spoke up for industrial biotechnology and didn’t stop at verbal support; when he deemed it necessary, he invested time for personal meetings with responsible parties in politics and funding organizations.
Right from the start of his chairmanship at DECHEMA, he actively shaped its strategic direction. He put emphasis on formulating a clearly defined core mission that would give direction to DECHEMA’s work. Even after his tenure, he made a significant contribution to the restructuring of DECHEMA as a member of the special commission of the board. Intellectual brilliance paired with leadership and the ability to express strategic visions clearly made him a personality who advanced ideas and enabled their implementation. His messages got through; but although they were clear, he always was fair. In the board of DECHEMA, he promoted a culture of discussion and openness and encouraged everbody to actively participate.
Despite his calm and seriousness, he allowed his humor to show at appropriate occasions; whether at ACHEMA Gala Night or the Max Buchner Evening, his lively speeches set the tone at many a society event.
His presence of thought, his sharp wit and his strategic mindset have greatly enriched DECHEMA’s work and given many impulses. We will miss Alfred Oberholz.
Image: ©: DECHEMA e.V.
- DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e. V. (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology), Frankfurt, Germany