Radboud families (3): ‘I thought it would be fun to study in Amsterdam, but that was clearly not going to happen’

26 May 2023

There was only one Catholic university in the country, so the Brabant brothers Van den Hoogen had no choice but to go to Nijmegen. Nina, Frank’s daughter, followed in her father’s steps and opted for Medicine.

When the brothers wanted to go home at weekends, they would hitchhike. It was a perfectly normal thing to do. You walked to the hitchhikers’ spot at the start of the Graafseweg, held up your sign and made sure you got to Bladel.

‘You see, we didn’t have an OV-card in those days,’ says Paul, the youngest.

‘No, and the bus was terrible and too expensive,’ Marc, the eldest, adds.

‘Two and a half hours by public transport!,’ Frank exclaims. He’s the middle brother.

Marc: ‘If you were a hitchhiking couple, the girl went in front so you would be more likely to be picked up.’ The brothers laugh.

They gathered for the photograph at the Nijmegen home of Frank, who works as an ENT doctor and trainer at Radboud university medical center. His daughter Nina also grew up under this roof (Frank is a father of four). Like her father, she studied Medicine in Nijmegen and is now also training as an ENT specialist, but in Maastricht.

‘We teach an emergency airway course together,’ she says. ‘I used to go with my dad as his driver, but now I am a full-fledged member of the team. Like my younger sister, by the way, who is studying Medicine in Rotterdam.’ Frank and his two daughters therefore teach medical specialists how to perform an emergency airway intervention on a patient. There they go, armed with pigs’ throats. On the sofa, Paul and Marc have to chuckle at that image.

Catholic university

The three brothers didn’t really have a choice about studying in Nijmegen. Frank: ‘I can still hear my mother say: “There’s only one Catholic university, and it’s in Nijmegen.”’

Marc: ‘Yes! I thought it would be fun to study in Amsterdam, but that was clearly not going to happen.’

The Brabant brothers come from a Catholic family, and education runs through their veins: their father and grandfather were school headmasters, and the three brothers all ended up in education themselves. During their studies at three different faculties, they spent a lot of time together. Billiards, nights out, outings to the Wylerberg lake. Studying was quite different back then.

Paul: ‘We had the kind of professors that you really looked up to. Icons.’

Marc: ‘When I see how my children interact with their professors now, it’s really different, you know.’

Frank: ‘In our time, you just had to sit and learn. None of that interactive teaching stuff.’

Nina, his daughter: ‘The biggest difference, I think, is that we can just watch our lectures later if we want to.’

Marc and Frank lived opposite each other in a flat on Galgenveld. To earn money, they set up a painting company (Het Schone Ruitje) together in the late 1980s.

‘It was a great success,’ says Frank, smiling again.

Marc: ‘We had two rates: 15 guilders an hour for people we didn’t know and 10 guilders if we did know them, but …’

‘… then we did want to eat with them,’ Frank says.

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