On Thursday 3 December, Mayor P.E.J. den Oudsten of the municipality of Groningen has presented Prof. J.A. van Manen with a Royal Decoration on the occasion of his retirement. Van Manen is Professor of Corporate Governance in the Department of Accountancy of the Faculty of Economics and Business. He has been made a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.
Van Manen (Amsterdam, 1950) helped the programme in accountancy at the University of Groningen to thrive and flourish, and has put accountancy well and truly on the map throughout the Netherlands. He combines his professorship with his position as a partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC). In his capacity as a professor, he focuses on bringing his knowledge and understanding of Corporate Governance to society. Conversely, he uses the expertise and practical experience he gains in the business world, government and non-profit organizations for the benefit of teaching and research at the University, building a bridge between academia and society in the broader sense. He has a gift for translating theory into practice (and vice versa) and making connections between the two. His knowledge and experience have not only earned him a reputation as a leading authority in the Netherlands, but also enabled him to help countless young researchers from Groningen along the same path.
The important position occupied by businesses (particular major businesses) in today’s society means that good management has become crucially important. The recent history of scandals in bookkeeping prove that this is no sinecure, despite the introduction in 2003 of the Netherlands Corporate Governance Code (Code Tabaksblat) for listed companies and public interest organizations. The code lays down guidelines for good corporate governance. Van Manen was a member of the Monitoring Committee for Corporate Governance, which maintains, improves and safeguards the code, from the very start. After two terms in office, Van Manen was not only proposed for an exceptional third term, but was, as the best candidate for the chair, appointed to this position by the Minister. The committee therefore bears his name for the next four years. In the Netherlands, Van Manen is considered an absolute guru in the field of Corporate Governance.
Van Manen has made an exceptional and highly relevant contribution to the integrity and quality of governance in the Netherlands, particularly in socially relevant organizations. He stands out for his selflessness, integrity, independence and unbridled energy. His personal qualities, knowledge of the sector and expertise in the field of monitoring led to frequent invitations to sit on various boards. He was, for example, a member of the Supervisory Board of the Nederlandsche Bank and chair of the audit committee for the Netherlands Court of Audit. Numerous social organizations have also benefited from his involvement, including the Organization of Housing Association Supervisors and Evides Water Company. He is particularly keen for people from all walks of society to be given seats on boards and advisory bodies, not only promoting female talent, but also drawing attention to other aspects of diversity, such as age, qualifications and cultural background.
Van Manen was a member of the Supervisory Board and chair of the audit committee of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen for many years. He worked selflessly on a whole range of museum activities, totally unrelated to his official role. When he stepped down in early 2014 after two full terms, he was presented with the Golden B, an exceptional award reserved for people who have made an outstanding contribution to the museum. He was also invited to sit on the Supervisory Board of the Rijksmuseum, where he fulfilled an important coaching role.
Van Manen also played a prominent role and worked tirelessly as a member, and later treasurer, of the Board of the Dutch Foundation for Society and Safety (Stichting Maatschappij en Veiligheid), and in various project groups run by the Foundation. The Foundation plays an important societal part in discussions on improving safety in the broadest sense of the word, giving solicited and unsolicited advice from a position of independence.
Van Manen has always been willing to deploy his network for the benefit of others, and in addition to his primary business contributions, has been extremely helpful on a personal level. He puts the interests of other people first and is happy to take on a coaching role in more informal situations. Van Manen has a gift for connecting people, and his tact, humour and sincerity are a shining example of inspiration, integrity and determination to find solutions.
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