The launch of VVCN

The man who nursed the VVCN into life, the association for chemistry students in Nijmegen, was Jan van den Bogaard. Jan started his course in 1972. Driven by his political interests and supported by his mentor, by the end of his first academic year (mid 1973) Jan was keenly involved in an environmentalist group. The group didn't survive for long. By 1975 it had become increasingly difficult to get people interested in anything political, therefore Jan was looking around to get others interested and activated.

The 'how to' light bulb was switched on during an excursion to Russia in May 1976. During the 2002 lustrum, Jan van den Bogaard mentioned that he had organised the trip to take a jaunt with his then girlfriend. He could only afford the sojourn if others were involved. And so it morphed into an excursion, which he organised along with Gerard Martens and Prof Dr B. Zwanenburg. This was the first time in years such an activity had been organised.

During visits to companies in Russia, our intrepid travellers realised that actually they had little real notion how Dutch companies operated inside the factory gate. For this reason they set up a number of visits to businesses on their return. This was such a success, they felt compelled to organise more such activities; and VVCN’s (later called VVCN Sigma) day had dawned.

The birth of V.V.C.N. Sigma

The first meetings of what was then called the VVCN 'initiative group' took place in the beginning of 1977. This initiative group consisted of fourteen people. The initial meetings mainly considered the aims that a chemistry-section association should have, and of course what sort of activities the association should organise and be involved in.

The association's most important objective evolved into looking after the interests of the chemistry students. According to the initiative group, this goal also implied that the association should organise activities directly serving the chemistry students' interests. These activities included a collective purchase of books, introducing new students and evaluating lectures. The group also organised questionnaires to obtain a clearer insight into the kinds of issues students faced. Armed with this knowledge they could also look for solutions.

But is wasn’t all furrowed brows and mohair shirts, the association also felt it had a mandate to provide more of the big F; fun, fun, fun, and waded in to organise excursions, movie evenings and irresistible beanos.

The activities in VVCN's first months (February and March 1977) included numerous excursions, all rounded off with a chemistry party. These activities resulted in a pool of knowledge and provided a financial base for organising further activities in the autumn of 1977.

The source of VVCN's start-up capital is a little opaque. It may have been through donations by Nivard, Steggerda, Aarts and Zwanenburg. There are some indications that Zwanenburg, as chairman of the Chemistry Section, personally guaranteed a contribution from the Chemistry Section towards the original start-up capital. A personal guarantee would have been required, as the faculty organisation was opposed to the idea, due to issues with student organisations in the past.

Wherever it came from, it wasn’t a great deal, as money was certainly thin on the ground at the outset. The principal source of income going forward was raised by organising events, activities and (later) by requesting a membership fee. A number of professors personally contributed by donating.

The next step was for the VVCN to officially inform the faculty's director. This happened on 17 May 1977. Until that moment the VVCN was still without a catchy moniker. Jan van den Bogaard went through quite a few, such as SOMA, Retort, Chemimi and Chemini, before finally settling on Sigma.

The name Sigma was officially adopted at a members' meeting on 15 June 1977. Jan van den Bogaard presented an elaborately substantiated reasoning in support of the name, claiming it had a four-fold symbolism:

Sigma, stands for 'Scheikunde Is Geen Maat Alleen' (Chemistry is not a measure in itself).

In Dutch, the word for ‘measure’ can also be taken as meaning friend.

S is the sign for summons, and therefore signifies an association. In other words: you're never alone within Sigma.

S is the strongest bond in chemistry. What binds Sigma members is linked with the strongest bond in existence: friendship.

The first VVCN Sigma year

Once the official name was made known and accepted, the association gifted a tree to the faculty on the occasion of the faculty's 4th lustrum, to be planted on the faculty's square on 2 December 1977. This was also the start of a long running tradition of planting trees to commemorate Sigma's own lustrum celebrations.