Professor Juha Oikkonen awarded university’s silver medal

At his farewell lecture on 22 January 2020, Professor Juha Oikkonen received the university’s silver medal for his exceptionally meritorious and long career at the University of Helsinki. Vice Rector Sari Lindblom handed over the medal conferred by the rector of the University of Helsinki, Jari Niemelä.

At the farewell lecture of this developer of mathematics instruction, the audience did not merely sit and listen, but rather, Oikkonen applied his own methods and challenged the listeners. A hum of voices immediately erupted in the large auditorium as members of the audience were asked to exchange opinions with their neighbours and comments appeared on the electronic noticeboard.

The award had obviously hit the right mark.

The University of Helsinki medal of merit is awarded in accordance with the rules verified by the council in 1979 and 2012. The silver medal may be conferred on “a foreign visitor or specialist, a teacher or official leaving their post after long service, communities or individuals who have significantly promoted the interests of the university and the research and teaching thereof, recently appointed honorary doctors of university faculties, and other individuals or communities that the university wants to thank, honour, or reward especially.”

Designed by sculptor Kalervo Kallio in 1957, the front of the medal for merit of the University of Helsinki displays the profiles of a youth and young woman in front of the “muse of science” with a sprig of laurel in her hand, acting as a guide. In the background, there is the main building of the University of Helsinki.

The motif of the reverse is the university’s seal from the 18th century, confirmed in its present form in 1919. The sign of the Order of the Cross of Liberty has been added to the seal. Due to the war, the university did not celebrate its 3rd centenary until September 1940.  The festivities were held in connection with the start-of-term opening, and as a commendation for sacrifices made for Finland, Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim gave general order #115 (5 Sept. 1940) to the university to add the Cross of Liberty to the university seal.

The name of the University of Helsinki, adopted once Finland had gained its independence, is included in its Latin form VNIVERSITAS HELSINGIENSIS on the seal. The seal is patterned by an oval surrounded by a baroque cartouche with the legend “Established in 1640 in Turku” in Latin, and the radiant name of God in Hebrew above it. The cartouche is framed with cornucopias and laurel sprigs, with a royal crown on top of it as a reference to the university’s earliest history and its founder, Queen Christina.