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Ilkka Herlin

Ilkka Heikki Herlin
Born January 25th, 1959, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1990 and PhD 1993 ( Finnish and Scandinavian History), University of Helsinki

Chairman of the board and principal owner 2005–, Cargotec
Founder and chairman of the board 2008–, Baltic Sea Action Group
Founder and chairman of the board 2015–, Soilfood

Researcher 1993–2000, University of Helsinki and the Academy of Finland
CEO 1987-200, Security Trading

Chairman of the funding and donations committee 2014–, University of Helsinki
Vice-chairman of the advisory board 2011–, Aleksanteri Institute
Chairman 2009–, Finland-China Trade Association
Chairman of the board 2005–, Wipunen varainhallinta oy
Board member 2005–, D-sijoitus Oy
Board member 2005, Mariatorp Oy
Board Member 2005–2011, Finnish Foundation for Share Promotion
Board Member 2005–2008, John Nurminen Foundation
Board Member 2005, chairman 2000–2005, WIP Asset Management
Board Member 1990–2000, Kone Corporation

Awards and honours:
Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, third class, 2010
Honorary PhD 2012, Lappeenranta University of Technology
Honorary PhD 2012, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki

Photo: Vesa Brandt
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Matthew Billington

Doctoral Dissertation on His Own Grandfather

In the late 1970s Ilkka Herlin was initially considering the offerings of the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Political Sciences when choosing his major.

– Then I was overcome by a strong desire to get to the heart of Finnish history. I began studying history at the University of Helsinki in 1979. Afterwards I have only had some mild regrets about not going to study history somewhere farther from home.

As a student, Herlin was influenced by several notable historians. Päiviö Tommila, Heikki Ylikangas, Pekka Suvanto and Oiva Turpeinen guided Herlin through the first stage of his research career. As the topic of his master’s thesis he chose the methodology of biographical research, which progressed naturally to a doctoral dissertation on the same subject. He daringly chose to study the life of his own grandfather, the academic Kustaa Vilkuna. Through the personal history of Vilkuna, Herlin delved into the birth of Finland as a nation state, peasant culture, the war years and how the academic world influenced society.

Irma Sulkunen was an important teacher to me. She had studied how the religious world became politicised, and was otherwise helpful in combining a sociological perspective with historical research methods. I was extremely dedicated to research. Perhaps I could have taken it a bit easier. In my final 400 page work there was enough material for two dissertations.”

Herlin’s dissertation, Kivijalasta harjahirteen. Kustaa Vilkunan yhteiskunnallinen ajattelu ja toiminta, was published in November, 1993 by Otava Publishing Company. The public defence of his doctoral thesis was one of the most memorable moments of his life.

– Docent Martti Turtola, who was my opponent for the defence of my thesis, and I managed to produce a good debate. I was particularly pleased when at the end of the event the academic Eino Jutikkala said that it had been the best public defence he had ever attended.”

The significance of his maternal grandfather is also evident in the fact that Mr Herlin’s only personal belonging decorating the conference room of Cargotec, of which he is the chairman of the board and the principal owner, is a portrait of Kustaa Vilkuna. Painted by Oso Heickell, it fills the room with determination and the importance of communication.

Painting of Kustaa Vilkuna by Oso Heickell.


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