In Memoriam: Heitor Gurgulino de Souza, Former United Nations University Rector

Born in São Lourenço, Brazil on 1 August 1928, Rector Gurgulino de Souza passed away on 18 November 2023.

It is with great sadness that the United Nations University (UNU) has learned of the passing of former UNU Rector Heitor Gurgulino de Souza. Born in São Lourenço, Brazil on 1 August 1928, Professor Gurgulino de Souza passed away on 18 November 2023 at the age of 95. He was a citizen of Brazil. 

In 1987, UN Secretary-General Javier Peréz de Cuéllar appointed Heitor Gurgulino de Souza as the third Rector of United Nations University, a role he served in until 1997. Under his leadership, UNU established its permanent headquarters in Tokyo, Japan and significantly expanded its global outreach through the establishment and new operation of several institutes and programmes, including: UNU-INTECH (Institute for New Technologies) in Maastricht, the Netherlands (now UNU-MERIT); UNU-INRA (Institute for Natural Resources in Africa) in Accra, Ghana; UNU-IAS (Institute of Advanced Studies) in Tokyo, Japan (now the UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability); UNU-IIST (International Institute for Software Technology) in Macau SAR, China (now UNU Macau); and UNU-INWEH (International Network for Water, Environment and Health) in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (now the UNU Institute for Water, Environment, and Health). 

Through this extension of UNU’s research centres and areas of expertise, Prof. Gurgulino de Souza ushered in a new UNU focus on bridging education, development and technology, along with new initiatives in higher education such as the UNU International Leadership Academy (UNU-ILA) in Amman, Jordan. Prof. Gurgulino de Souza also refocused the University’s internal publishing wing to become UNU Press with a new mandate to provide expanded publishing opportunities for underrepresented scholars from the Global South — a role it excelled in for more than two decades.

Professor Gurgulino de Souza received his degree in physics from Mackenzie University in São Paulo and completed graduate work at the Aeronautics Institute of Technology in Brazil and the University of Kansas in the United States. He then held the chair of Professor of Science at the "Julio de Mesquita Filbo" State University of São Paulo.

In 1962, he joined the scientific department of the Pan American Union at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. During his seven years there, he helped to organize a regional programme for scientific and technological development, and the promotion of research, training and curricular programmes for use throughout Latin America. For most of that time, he also directed the Unit of Education and Research in the Department of Scientific Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS).

In 1970, Professor Gurgulino de Souza returned to Brazil to help establish the new Federal University of São Carlos in São Paulo State and was subsequently appointed its first Rector. From 1972 to 1974, he was also head of the Department of University Affairs of the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Culture; from 1975 to 1978, he was Director of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development of Brazil; and from 1980 to 1982, he served as Vice-President of the Federal Council of Education of Brazil, of which he had been made a member by presidential appointment.

Professor Gurgulino de Souza was involved in a number of international organizations active in the promotion of academic research and teaching. From 1974 to 1977, he served as Chairman of the Inter-American Committee on Science and Technology of the OAS Council for Education, Science, and Culture. In addition he was active with the International Association of University Presidents, the International Council for Educational Development, and the Institute Ajijic Sobre Educaciõn Internacional of Mexico. 

After his tenure at UNU from 1987–1997, Professor Gurgulino de Souza was named Special Advisor to the Director-General of UNESCO, a position he held until 1999. He was elected Vice-President of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) for the term 1999–2002.

Professor Gurgulino de Souza served as Vice-Rector of UNILEGIS of the Brazilian Federal Senate (2000–2003); Vice President of the Club of Rome (2006–12); Secretary General of the International Association of University Presidents (2011); President of the World Academy of Art and Science (2013); President of the World University Consortium (2014); and most recently, the President of the Brazilian Chapter of the Club of Rome.

Throughout his career, Professor Gurgulino de Souza remained an engaged advocate of education and technology, demonstrated by his numerous leadership roles and the breadth of publications he authored in the fields of physics, the application of science and technology to development, higher education, and university administration. 

He is survived by his wife, Lilian, his two children, Carlos and Gustavo, and grandchildren.

UNU will fly the UN flag at half-mast for seven days in honour of the life of Professor Heitor Gurgulino de Souza and to recognize his immense contributions to UNU, education and sustainable development worldwide.

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