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At the beginning of this month, Domenico Lenarduzzi, one of the pioneers of Erasmus, died in Brussels, at the age of 83. In the course of the 20 years that he dealt with education matters in the European Commission, the Italian held the senior positions of Head of Unit, Director and finally Director-General. Domenico was one of the key persons involved in launching and developing the Erasmus Programme and in extending the programme’s reach beyond higher education, for example to school education. Higher education recognised his outstanding contribution by many an honorary doctorate, for example from the Universitat Ramon Llull, the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the K.U. Leuven and the Università degli Studi di Udine.
A firm believer in a bottom-up ‘Europe of the citizens’ and convinced of the need of the further integration of Europe (an “ever closer Union”), Domenico fought for his beliefs. If necessary, the warm and charming man could be a ‘tough cookie’, as education ministries across Europe experienced. This is all the more remarkable since his life had not been an easy one. Coming from a less-than-privileged background and being severely handicapped, Domenico made it to the top nonetheless. In days when ‘inclusion’ was less often the talk of the town than today, he successfully fought for extra financial support to enable physically handicapped young people to study abroad with Erasmus.
He was respected by everyone and loved by most of those who had the privilege to work with him. Despite – perhaps: because of - some little weaknesses. Brevity was not Domenico’s strongest side. His introductions to sessions of the Erasmus Committee tended to last for two hours, always started with the words “très brièvement”. He also found no fault in calling for ‘afternoon meetings’ at 7 or 8 p.m.