LMU foundations

4 Aug 2023

The purchase of valuable books, the funding of high-caliber guest lectures, subsidies for student research projects, excursions, scholarships, you name it: Many of the exceptional services provided by LMU are supported by foundations.

LMU manages more foundations than any other university in Germany. Transcending faculty lines, they deploy their resources to support research, teaching and study – contributing to the creation of a vibrant academic environment in the process. MUM has put together brief portraits of some of the most important foundations from which students at LMU in particular reap the benefits.

The history of foundations at LMU goes back to the very inception of the university: In 1472, Duke Ludwig IX of Bavaria-Landshut founded what is today Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich. Barely 20 years later, as the 15th century drew to a close, the first scholarship foundation was launched: the Herzoglich Georgianisches Priesterhaus, which still exists to this day. This foundation was established to give students free board and lodgings while they were learning. Students who have benefited from this scholarship over the centuries include Sebastian Kneipp, who came up with the hydrotherapy that bears his name, and Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

Over time, a whole ecosystem of foundations sprang up around LMU. The scholarship foundations in particular shaped the university’s history – until the two World Wars and the harsh economic crises of the 20th century brought a turning point when many foundations lost their wealth. Notwithstanding, in order to continue to uphold the purpose of the foundations’ fathers, the university administration bundled the roughly 100 foundations attached to LMU under the aegis of the Vereinigte Stipendienstiftung der Universität München (United Scholarship Foundation for Munich University), which is today one of the biggest supporters of the Deutschlandstipendium (Germany Scholarship).

The Germany Scholarship: Diversity and full-spectrum benefits

Some 150 students a year receive financial support in the form of a Germany Scholarship from LMU’s scholarship foundations. “Besides rewarding talent and performance, decisions to award the scholarships also take account of voluntary work and the overcoming of exceptional social, family or personal obstacles,” says Alejandra Riedmiller, who oversees the Germany Scholarship program at LMU. “The principal objective of the scholarship foundations at LMU is to help deserving and needy students to finance their education."

Examples of LMU’s scholarship foundations include the Romed Ebner and Heide Ebner Foundation, the Studiengenossenschaft Luitpoldiana (Luitpoldiana Students’ Cooperative) and the Freiherr von Handel’sche Foundation. As is the case for many of the foundations attached to LMU, these three also have fascinating historical backgrounds. The Romed Ebner and Heide Ebner Foundation, for example, was set up in 2008 by a couple who first met while studying medicine in Munich. In their will, the couple stipulated that their estate should be used to support students at LMU. The Luitpoldiana Students’ Cooperative manages the estate that remains from an association dissolved in 1967. Since that date, it has supported LMU students via the vehicle of the Germany Scholarship, for example.

The Freiherr von Handel’sche Foundation was established in 1887 to finance the Munich studies of the male descendants of Mainhard Maria von Handel, who served as chamberlain at the Bavarian royal court. Since the von Handel family line died out, the funds have been available to the wider community.

Scholarship foundations are not the only entities that support LMU students, however: Other foundations award prizes to students for outstanding achievements or help to facilitate attractive teaching events and out-of-the-ordinary projects, thereby enriching the educational milieu enjoyed by students.

The Herbert Marcinek Foundation: A prize for students of pharmacy

The Herbert Marcinek Prize has been awarded to students at LMU’s Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy since the year 2000. Exceptional performance in the first phase of study is the criterion determining who wins the 300-euro prize. “That includes achieving excellent grades in the first state examination in the pharmacy course, or an excellent average grade after the fourth semester of the bachelor’s degree course in pharmaceutical sciences,” says Professor Franz Paintner, Vice Dean of the Department of Pharmacy at the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy.

The endowment for the Herbert Marcinek Prize was provided by the Marcinek family from Weilheim to commemorate their son. From 1994 to 1997, Herbert studied the biosynthesis of indigo at LMU’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology. Tragically, he was then killed in a traffic accident shortly before completing his dissertation. LMU manages the assets that were appropriated to the foundation by the family: The proceeds are to be used solely to fund the annual award of the said prize.

“Every year, the foundation yields enough money to present prizes to three or four students,” Paintner says. The prizewinners are proposed by the Vice Dean and honored at the end-of-year graduation ceremony. Many students who have won the prize to date have earned a grade one in the first state examination (a standard nationwide exam), which puts them in the top one or two percent of students in their year in the whole of Germany.

Students studying in the reading hall of the medical library

Students in the Medical Reading Hall


Incentive in an early phase of study

“The great thing about the Herbert Marcinek Prizes is that they are presented in an early phase of study,” Paintner continues. “This shows the students that it is worthwhile showing commitment and working hard right from the start.” The fact that this incentive pays dividends is reflected in the fact that an above-average proportion of the winners of the Herbert Marcinek Prize go on to win further accolades for outstanding performance at the end of their studies.

“The prize acts like a catalyst,” the Vice Dean adds – and is seconded by Xiya Niu and Nadine Baumeister, both of whom won Herbert Marcinek Prizes in 2022. “Being nominated gave me an even greater incentive to continue striving for excellence even as my studies came to an end,” Baumeister says. Xiya Niu agrees: “You study for a long time. And the more you learn, the more you realize that there is so much you still don’t know. So for me, the prize came at just the right time – just when the mass of study material was getting on top of me. It came as a fantastic affirmation that I had already learned something and used my time well. It was a powerful incentive to keep working hard.”

Her fellow student Paul Kropp, who won another of the prizes in the same year, says that having his exam result rewarded with a Marcinek Prize meant a lot to him especially during the crisis, when teaching was done online and internships were restricted. “It’s nice when students’ hard work is recognized – and above all that Herbert Marcinek’s memory is kept alive in this way,” Nadine Baumeister says.

The Heinz and Sibylle Laufer Foundation

While the Herbert Marcinek Foundation uses its money to recognize outstanding achievements by students of pharmacy, the Heinz and Sibylle Laufer Foundation has supported the learning environment and projects for students of political science since the mid-1990s.

Munich lawyer and political scientist Heinz Laufer was appointed Professor of Political Science and Public Law at LMU in 1969. He was also a member of the Governing Board of the Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science (GSI) and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Before his death in 1996, he willed the inception of a foundation that was to be named after him and his wife Sibylle and should be attached to LMU.

“It was important to Heinz Laufer that his foundation should specifically support political science”, says Professor Klaus H. Goetz, Chair of Political Systems and European Integration at LMU’s Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and the man currently in charge of the foundation.

Originally, the assets of the foundation were used primarily to award scholarships, commission research contracts and grant subsidies for printing costs. Conditions have changed in the meantime, however, and the foundation now focuses more on funding start-up, bridging and graduation scholarships to support doctoral candidates. It also continues to finance political science research projects such as one that last year involved students in analyzing voting behavior in Bavaria.

The Laufer Lectures – International guests address large audiences

“It is important to us that our activities are not only useful for research purposes, but that they also deliver direct benefits to students of political science,” Goetz affirms. With this goal in mind, the Laufer Lectures have been one of the foundation’s most important tools of support, inviting high-caliber international scientists to talk at LMU. “The Laufer Lectures form part of a major lecture providing an introduction to the political system in Germany,” the foundation manager explains. Each speaker explores a specific aspect. “The foundation funds make it possible for us to introduce the students to prominent international researchers whom they know from the literature,” Goetz adds. “And the speakers themselves enjoy it: They address a full auditorium every time.”

Nearly three years ago, the decision was also taken to begin funding Germany Scholarships with the assets of the Heinz and Sibylle Laufer Foundation. The latter funds two scholarship holders per year and also has a say in the selection procedure. “The money thus goes to outstanding students of political science at the GSI,” Goetz says. “This approach has proven its worth, and it lets us use our funds to make a useful contribution as part of the network. The students are thrilled to receive what is often crucial assistance.” The official ceremony at which the scholarships are awarded has also once again given greater visibility to the foundation among its university audience.

Although the assets available to the foundation each year are limited, Goetz is happy that they consistently succeed in deploying the funds in line with the foundation’s statutes and the wishes of its founder: to yield benefits for students and researchers in the field of political science. “We are obviously grateful for all the support we get,” the foundation manager states. “Again and again, it is a good feeling for us to see what a difference even just a small contribution can make.”

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