70th Birthday of Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Ziegler

In February 2024, Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Ziegler celebrated his 70th birthday. Given his vitality, that number is quite hard to believe.  Wasn‘t it just “yesterday” that his 60th birthday was celebrated at RWTH Aachen University with a festive and cheerful colloquium? Unfortunately, his departure from the university went almost unnoticed six years later. The already organised farewell fell victim to the Covid-19 pandemic. His more than twenty years of commendable work in geotechnical engineering there deserved a different ending. The ZAI Ziegler und Aulbach Ingenieurgesellschaft, which he founded himself, and the STUVA then remained as fields of activity, and there was no mention of “retirement” after he left Aachen.

Since the last conference in Munich in 2023, he has been serving as Chairman of the STUVA Board for over 20 years. His appointment as chairman shortly after his election to the board following the unexpected passing of his predecessor proved to be a great stroke of luck. The STUVA had found a new chairman who was able to tackle the growing tasks with confidence and charisma. His characteristic personal qualities were certainly decisive for this: expertise, reliability, humanity and modesty.

As is usual, expertise was the main reason for his appointment as Chairman of the Executive Board. But who knew at the time how much the world of civil engineering would change in the 20 years of his STUVA career?  In addition to the problems of the subsoil and construction technology, environmental and climate-related issues are also becoming increasingly important in tunnelling. Without attention to these issues, construction faces difficult times. With Martin Ziegler as chairman, the STUVA is flexible enough to tackle these issues in their entirety - from the extraction of raw materials and the selection of the right building materials for safe construction to operation and disposal – without bending over backwards. Martin Ziegler equally despises one-sided optimisation and compartmentalised approaches. With this „further development on the basis of what already exists“, STUVA
is not only following a realisable path, but is also constantly opening up new areas of work.

Throughout his 20 years as Chairman of the STUVA, he has consistently impressed us with his reliability and has made working with him not only easy, but also a pleasure. When Martin Ziegler makes a commitment, he always fulfils it to the letter. He is far from delegating time-consuming and difficult tasks that require his own personal style to others. For example, he always writes his own opening speeches, the speeches at the festive evening or the closing words at STUVA Conferences. This is what makes them express his opinion clearly and unambiguously and therefore sound true. And that is precisely what makes him authentic and the reason why he is so well received by the audience. This approach is un­usual, especially for someone who does this work on a voluntary basis, but it characterises his very personal style. This is one of the reasons why his speeches at
STUVA Conferences are so well received.

His humanity is one of his most striking and likeable qualities – not least because it is so often lacking among today‘s leading personalities. The personal interaction with the people around him, listening to and taking into account the opinions of others to the greatest extent possible, the humorous interjection in critical situations or, to summarise, “live and let live” – these are precisely the qualities of Martin Ziegler that make working on the STUVA Executive Board so pleasant for everyone. As a result, the Board members regularly and happily attend meetings even when they have a heavy workload elsewhere. Their long terms of office in this voluntary role also ensure continuity on the STUVA Board. And if Martin Ziegler realises in retrospect that something has not gone as he had imagined, he is not afraid to travel all over Germany to sort it out personally with the people concerned. Chapeau – who is still capable of such a gesture nowadays?

His modesty reflects his humanity. This is expressed both in his standards and his demeanour, and he “lives” it both as Chairman of the STUVA and in his private life. He loves nature: hiking with his equally active wife Sonja or with friends on the Rhine and Moselle as well as in the Palatinate or high in the Alps in Switzerland; ice skating on holiday in Sweden in winter and camping in his mobile home in the great outdoors in summer – away from all the hustle and bustle is his motto. And when he was asked by the STUVA about a reception or anything else to celebrate his 70th birthday, he declined (after 20 years of voluntary work). At most, he approved of a small get-together with a few friends, preferably combined with another event (so that it wouldn‘t be so conspicuous). There‘s nothing more to say than: Where else can you find that? Role models are made of such material.

To summarise, we can only say one thing: The entire
STUVA team is happy and grateful to have a chairman with such a strong character and youthful spirit to accompany them through turbulent times. Therefore: Congratulations on your 70th birthday and ad multos annos, dear Professor Ziegler!


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