The University’s former rector Jari Niemelä has passed away

The former rector of the University, Professor Jari Niemelä, has passed away. He succumbed to a long-term disease at the age of 64 on 5 July 2022.

Jari Niemelä, Professor of Urban Ecology, worked as the rector of the University of Helsinki from 2018 to 2022 retiring in late spring.

Rector Jari Niemelä was a strong advocate of inclusivity and a promoter of wellbeing within the University while also being an active social influencer. Under his leadership, the University’s values were updated, its strategy renewed and the vision leading up to the year 2030 – With the power of knowledge – for the world – created. The University’s strategic plan reflects issues important to him, such as responsibility, sustainable development, biodiversity and climate change. Consequently, Jari Niemelä’s work and handprint will remain at the University long into the future.

Jari Niemelä took sick leave from time to time during his rector’s term. He was open about his situation and remained optimistic about his recovery. He maintained his researcher’s curiosity and his desire to both work and live until the end. For example, he contributed to the writing of the Kestävyyden avaimet (“Keys to sustainability”) non-fiction book to be published in October.

The passing of Jari Niemelä touches profoundly the staff and students of the University of Helsinki for he was a well-loved and respected colleague, teacher, researcher and rector.

The University will fly flags at half-mast today on the Viikki and City Centre campuses to honour his memory and to express its sympathy to Jari Niemelä’s family and loved ones.

Jari Niemelä’s obituary will be published on the University website at a later date. 


Highlights from professor Jari Niemelä's career
  • Rector of the University of Helsinki, 2018–2022
  • Director of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS, 2018
  • Dean of the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, 2004–2017
  • Professor of Urban Ecology, 2000–2022
  • Postdoctoral researcher, University of Alberta, Edmonton, 1989–1992
  • 20 supervised doctoral theses
  • Chair of the board of WWF Finland, 2004–2022
  • Member of the board of the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, 2006–2022
  • Member of the board of the Hanaholmen Swedish– Finnish Cultural Centre, 2013–2022
  • Member of the board of the Walter and Andrée de Nottbeck Foundation, 2015–2022
  • State Award for Public Information for the book Ihminen ja ympäristö (‘Humans and the environment’), 2012
  • University of Helsinki’s J.V. Snellman award for outstanding efforts to disseminate scholarly knowledge, 2012