In memoriam - Cees van Rhee (1959-2023)

News - 21 July 2023 - Webredactie 3mE

It is with sadness that we learned of the passing of our dear colleague Cees van Rhee on Saturday 15 July 2023 during his holiday in France. Cees was professor of Dredging Technology at the Department of Maritime & Transport Technology at TU Delft since 2007. We know him as a substantive leader who gave people the confidence and freedom to bring out the best in themselves.

Cees studied Civil Engineering at TU Delft and started his career at Delft Hydraulics (now Deltares). Here he investigated, among other things, the stability of underwater slopes and erosion of sand with water jets. From 1990, Cees was involved in large land reclamation projects within Van Oord. During these years, Cees discovered that research was his real passion. He started his PhD research, focusing on the sedimentation process in the hopper, and completed it cum laude five years later. In 2007, he became professor of Dredging Technology in the faculties 3mE and CiTG at TU Delft. During his professorship, he enthusiastically supervised graduates and PhD students and built a solid academic group working closely with the industry. He also played a major role within the Offshore & Dredging Engineering and Hydraulic Engineering masters.

His work

As professor of Dredging Technology, Cees had set himself the goal of modelling all dredging processes for both conventional dredging processes and in special conditions, such as at large water depths in deep-sea mining. In addition, he was interested in high-speed erosion of sand layers. He showed that in this regime, not only the properties of individual grains are important, but also the bulk properties of sand, such as permeability and porosity. With this research, he contributed to water safety. He has also made a considerable mark on research into deep-sea mining, and its technical feasibility.

Role model for students and PhD students

Cees was not fond of formal meetings; his guidance was at its best over lunch or at the coffee machine. Just a few sentences were enough for him to send students and PhD students back on their way in good spirits. He wanted the new generation to grow and flourish. 

In teaching, Cees was excellent at linking theory with practice, using many anecdotal examples from his experiences at HAM and Van Oord. Lectures were therefore lively and interactive. The door to his office was always open and he was always available for questions and guidance. Cees knew how to bring out the best in students by giving them great confidence in their work. This often led to high grades and publishable results. Many alumni will still remember the last official moment with Cees, where you were told from the dredge chair, "We have a new engineer, from now on we are colleagues".

We are deeply affected by the sudden passing of Cees and our sympathy goes out to his wife Monique, family, friends, colleagues and everyone who was dear to him. We wish them all much strength.