In Sickness and in Health

About a year ago I participated in the development of a new routine for introducing new employees at Chalmers University of Technology where I work. The concept was brilliant, namely to take a group of new people on a tour of the campus stopping at certain places and telling exciting stories about the buildings and the people who had worked there as well as what's going on there now.

My workplace is in an old building in the so-called Vasa Area at Vera Sandbergs allé. Many years ago it was a hospital for poor, old and mentally ill people in Gothenburg. When my Mum visited me at my office, she told me about the last time she had been there.

For many years my father was the chairman of the Gothenburg Police Male Voice Choir. Then, as well as now, the choir consisted of both active and retired policemen. Before I was born, my parents became friends with an former policeman and his wife. He was an old-school patrolling policeman, tall and sturdy, and he sang in the choir. When his wife died, my parents took extra care to make sure he was all right and kept visiting him. He carved walking sticks and tobacco pipes out of strangely shaped pieces of wood, a bit scary but also fun to look at for a small child.

Then suddenly, but not totally unexpectedly, he fell ill and was taken to the hospital at Vasa. My parents got notice and my Mum went to see him. When she arrived, the nurses told her that he had passed away the day before. Alone. 

The text I provided for the introductory tour roughly translates to this:

"VeraSandberg was the first woman at Chalmers and indeed in Sweden to get an engineering degree in 1917. When she started her education in 1914, she was the only female among 500 male fellow students. It probably took a whole lot of courage and determination for her to take on such a task. This is why it feels extra good for the Innovation Office to be positioned at this particular street, since the utilisation of research also requires a lot of audacity and resolution in order to be successful. In addition, the most important channel for utilisation is probably education, why it feels great to be at a location that puts the spotlight on a former student.

The Vasa Area used to be a hospital, where the chronically and mentally ill were treated. Its first name was ”Gibraltar Fattigvårds- och Försörjningsanstalt” and the decision to build it was made by the city council in April 26 1883. One of the Areas of Advance at Chalmers is Life Science Engineering, an area with opportunities to improve the quality of life for many of those who suffer from similar illnesses today. As a university we have the opportunity to contribute to create a positive impact on society, to help create a sustainable future. It's nice to be in an environment that reminds you of the value our research and education create and can create in the future."

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