When Leif came to Riga in August 1997 to take up the position as Rector of SSE Riga, he had already retired twice. First from the International Monetary Fund and then from the Stockholm School of Economics (in Stockholm), where he had held a professorship in international tax law.
It was, however, not a retired Professor Emeritus who arrived in Riga in August 1997. On the contrary, he was full of energy and enthusiasm. Nor was SSE Riga unfamiliar to him – his expertise had been drawn upon in the process of establishing SSE Riga in the early 1990s.
The organisation he met stood in sharp contrast to the energy he brought in. It was tired after having undergone several drastic managerial changes during a period of a couple of years. It badly needed a father. Together with his beloved Margareta, Leif gladly took on the role. They both embraced the School and the School embraced them.
With him, he brought experience from his own studies at Uppsala University in Sweden and the three pillars that came with it: integrity, hard work, and enjoying life as a student. In his welcoming speech to the incoming class of 1998 he presented his own translation and a witty interpretation of Gaudeamus: “The first stanza points to something extremely important: namely, the productive features of happiness… Student life can and should be fun.”
Leif led by example. He brought happiness to SSE Riga by strengthening teamwork and respect between students, faculty and staff. However, he did not do it the easy way. Instead, his leadership style demonstrated how toil and labour can be celebrated. As a consequence, the School he left when he retired in summer 1999 was very different from the one he had taken over just a couple of years earlier.
His legacy remains and is still present at SSE Riga today. It is seen in the School’s ethical standards and the attention paid to integrity. It is also seen in those of us who were fortunate enough to have Leif as a mentor. Being a mentor in the truest sense of the word, he shaped us for life.
Leif’s legacy is also highly material. The Leif Mutén Foundation (later the Leif Mutén Society) was established by Leif through a generous donation on his 70th birthday. Inspired by the Norrland Nation in Uppsala, where Leif was very active as a student and later as a professor, it supports students in need and rewards strong academic performance.
Even more tangible are the SSE Riga dormitories. The opportunity to buy the dormitory building at a very favourable price came up around Christmas 1998. Rather than waiting for a decision by the SSE Riga Board of Directors to buy it and hence running the risk of losing it, Leif risked his own funds buying it (and later sold it to the School at the same price).
When elaborating on the last stanza of Gaudeamus to the incoming class of 1998, he put it the following way:
“There is a word in the Bible: ‘When life was at its best, it was toil and labour.’ The story goes that a lazy old law professor in Sweden, giving his farewell speech to his students, quoted that line, adding: ‘I should tell you one thing, gentlemen: it has not always been at its best.’”
We are all very grateful that this law professor was not Leif – together with him, life was at its best.
Rector, SSE Riga