EBS Awarded Two New Honorary Doctorates – Bengt Robert Holmström and Martin Villig

At its 35th anniversary gala, EBS conferred honorary doctorates on Nobel Prize laureate in economics and professor at MIT Bengt Robert Holmström, and one of Estonia's most successful tech entrepreneurs, Martin Villig.

It is an honour to recognise such influential figures who have had a significant impact on the world and on Estonia’s business and education landscape. They have taught, among other things, that development never stops, with their example,“ said EBS Chancellor Mart Habakuk, commenting on the addition of new honorary doctors. There are now a total of 16 individuals in the distinguished list of honorary doctorates.


Professor Bengt Robert Holmström was awarded the honorary doctorate to highlight his contributions to the development of economic and management theory and his willingness to share his knowledge with EBS students. Holmström's groundbreaking research has made significant contributions to the development of contract and reward theory, which are important from the perspective of institutional economics and have high practical value in enhancing the management of companies, academic institutions, and other organizations.


Professor Holmström has shown great interest in EBS activities. Despite his busy schedule after receiving the Nobel Prize in Economics, he found time to travel to Tallinn for a conference organized by EBS in 2017. He also presented to students at the EBS International Summer School in Helsinki in 2021. Holmström also participated as a speaker in the seminar „Building The New: How Data, Information and Urban Design Shape our Community, Growth and Responsibility?“ organized for the 35th anniversary, where he discussed the role of data and artificial intelligence in shaping the economy.


Bengt Holmström commented on the honorary doctorate title: „This is a great honour for me and has a very special meaning, as Estonia is a country close to my heart. I have followed the doings of EBS for several years and think it is a wonderful private university.“ 


Holmström mentioned his grandmother, who lived in Estonia and was a great role model with her wisdom, in his speech. Recalling his past visits to Estonia, he expressed sincere admiration for how quickly and dynamically Tallinn and Estonia have developed over the last few decades.


EBS alumnus and Bolt founder Martin Villig received recognition for his diverse activities in promoting societal well-being and the development of the educational and entrepreneurial landscape. Villig is one of the founders of the Estonian Education Foundation, which aims to solve critical problems in education, and a co-founder of the KOOD/JÕHVI coding school, demonstrating a deep commitment to educational innovation. He has also made a significant contribution to the Estonian startup ecosystem. He is a co-founder of the Estonian Founders Society and Garage48, the curator of the Estonian Startups Funding Spreadsheet and Estonian Startups Headcount Spreadsheet. Villig was also a member of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Advisory Board from 2019 to 2021.


One of Villig’s passions is making our cities more people-friendly by promoting alternative transport methods and building safe bike lines via ElavTanav.ee. He is also an active contributor to various charity initiatives.


Martin Villig, who graduated from EBS with a degree in International Business Administration, said in his acceptance speech: „The honorary doctorate is a great honour for me. EBS has played a significant part in my life path; it has greatly influenced and changed me into who I am.“


Villig spoke about the vital role of school leaders, citing his school director Toomas Takkis in Kuressaare, who innovatively taught business and organizational behavior for that time. It was also thanks to him that Villig participated in and won Estonia's first Business Olympiad organized by EBS, receiving a scholarship to study at EBS as a prize.


Speaking about the title, he expressed the opinion that he received it for his actions both in business and for the good of society. „I really hope that it also inspires others to give back to society more in addition to business entrepreneurship,“ Villig called for a much more systematic contribution to charity.



Photos: Silver Gutmann