They say great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club – with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand. As the Academic Dean at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, Dr Jacques Kaat chose to lead with sincerity, gentleness and a quiet, cool intellect. A natural mentor.
He was appointed at Wittenborg in March 2015, immediately immersing himself in the consolidation of its academic programmes and the enhancement of quality in its education system. His extensive knowledge about education won him respect and trust from colleagues and those he mentored.
Before joining Wittenborg Dr Kaat was the Academic Director at Webster University and brought to the job experience with American, British and European higher education and accreditation systems.
Jacques Kaat was born in late summer, on 14 September 1955, in Amstelveen. He married Sharon Hayes, a Brit, on 28 September 1985 and the couple had two daughters, Virginia and Lizzie. They lived in Oegstgeest, a Dutch town in South Holland, close to Leiden.
Dr Kaat obtained his doctorandus in English Literature and Linguistics from the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam in 1984 in addition to his Teacher Training Certificate. In 1988 he attained his PhD, Doctor of Philosophy, from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, specializing in comparative literature and reception aesthetics.
The joy he derived from working in education was obvious. “It’s magic,” he called it at one point, describing the satisfaction of seeing new students arriving and watching them develop year after year into young adults. “That is what motivates me.”
In his free time Dr Kaat, who always had an interest in culture and natural history, enjoyed traveling and watching films. He often combined these interests and integrated it in his work, for example when he translated two major works on wildlife, including one of the titles by BBC naturalist Sir David Attenborough (The Trials of Life).
Before concerns about his health took its toll, Dr Kaat gave one last talk in his capacity as Academic Dean when he addressed graduates at Wittenborg’s 2016 Winter Graduation Ceremony in February that year. He spoke intently about the decisive moments in one’s life, calling them “game-changers” and urging students to “never stop creating those moments”.
“The day you choose your life partner or the day when your first child is born, those are examples of decisive moments. You have them right until the day you draw your last breath. These moments don’t just happen. They happen because you create them, you open yourself up to opportunity and act upon them.”
Perhaps his biggest legacy at Wittenborg is that he taught how to lead with integrity – by sharing words of wisdom, but mostly by way of example.
*A funeral service will be held for Dr Jacques Kaat on Monday 27 November 2017 in Leiden.
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press