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Oswald Coene

Oswald Coene is CEO of technical services company Koning & Hartman. The entrepreneur at heart started off as a medical student, but graduated in business economics in 1986.

Why, back then, did you decide to study in Tilburg?
“Before I came to Tilburg, I first started following my father’s footsteps. He was a doctor, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and so I began studying medicine in Amsterdam when I was seventeen. It went well in principle, but the topics did not really captivate me. I found economics much more interesting and actually wanted to work in the oil business one day. Although my mother was one of the first female economics graduates at Tilburg University, the university appealed to me the least because I just wanted to move away from my hometown. Amsterdam was not an option: economics at the UvA did not have a good reputation in those days. Rotterdam was also out since I couldn’t start in the middle of the year. So anyway, in the end it was Tilburg and I have never regretted it.”

Who was your favorite professor and why?

“Professor Dick Schouten (General Economics) was my favorite professor. He knew how to directly translate the daily news, such as the third Tuesday in September [the day of the Queen’s speech] into economic models. Like no one else, he made macroeconomics interesting and lively.”

"My time at Tilburg University was both fascinating and formative"

Do you have an interesting anecdote from your student days?

[He sighs and then laughs] “How much time do you have? I was a very active student, being amongst other things a committee member of the student associations Olof and AIESEC and working as a student assistant. Anyway, the oral exams of professor Schouten were actually very special. Once I entered his room well prepared, expecting an oral examination. Schouten was working out the government’s budget on the blackboard and he asked me to help him think about the calculations. This clarified the social relevance of the theory of dynamic modeling.”

What role has the university played in your life and how has this influenced your career?

“My time at Tilburg University was both fascinating and formative. I participated in an exchange program with an American university, I worked as an intern at Procter & Gamble, and I did my graduation thesis at Shell. Besides facilitating my personal development, the university distinguished itself by its involvement with society. I found this exceptional. The philosophical ideology has also had a big influence on my way of thinking.”

"My career is especially characterized by entrepreneurship and the opportunity to develop new initiatives"

How has your career been?

“I started my career as a management trainee at AKZO. My manager there really inspired me. That’s the reason why I joined him when he set up his own management consultancy firm. Bouman and Company (currently van Spaendonck Management Consultants) needed research capacity and that prompted me to strengthen the ties again with Tilburg University. In 1991, I secured a job at Getronics where I was responsible for mergers and acquisitions. Through a management buy-out of several divisions of Getronics, Koning & Hartman was re-launched in 2005. Since then, I have been CEO and major shareholder of the company. My career is especially characterized by entrepreneurship and the opportunity to develop new initiatives.”

Does Tilburg University still play a role in your life, and if so, in what way?

“I have always been an ambassador of Tilburg University. I have also remained actively involved by participating in the Tilburg University Society and by acting as chairman of the Friends of Cobbenhagen.”