Koninkijke Orde van de Nederlands Leeuw

(Royal Order of the Netherlands Lion)

The Lion that belongs to Aruba

The honor of a lifetime

On April 28 2010, I was contacted by the Governor of Aruba, His Excellency Fredis Refunjol.  He told me that the Queen of Netherlands, whom he represents on Aruba, had bestowed upon me the honor of membership as Knight in the Royal Order of the Netherlands Lion.

This was very unexpected news to me because this award is normally bestowed on the Queen's birthday on April 30.  Two weeks prior to the call, I had already accepted the fact that I would not receive this honor.  Not really a surprise frankly.  So when he called and told me the news, I was just completely amazed and very honored.

Coverage the next day in the press:
Official Press Release
Diario (archived)
Radio Nederland Wereldomroup. Archived. Translated
Trouw.nlArchived with the other recipients from ArubaArchived
Amigoe di Aruba (archived)

My surprise increased when I learned that I had not been bestowed with membership in the Order van Oranje-Nassau, but instead with the highest civilian order in the Dutch Kingdom: the Order of the Netherlands Lion.  It is a truly humbling experience.  Per the press releases, in 2010 a total of 3,738 were decorated with the Oranje-Nassau, but only 8 with the Netherlands Lion.

That day, to celebrate, Agnes made me a brownie.  The sign reads:
"Congratulations Sir Edward Cheung".  How sweet of her.

A fortuitous delay

Although my original understanding was that the recipients of the Knighthood would be made public in early April, it turns out that this was incorrect, and they are normally told only days before they are awarded.  Thus there is little travel time.  As a result, the award medal is customarily sent to the nearest embassy of the recipient.  That was also the case for my award, and it was sent to the Washington DC Embassy.  Meanwhile, the awards for the other Aruban recipients were sent to Aruba.  These shipments were sent by air, but they all experienced several weeks delay due to the 2010 Icelandic Volcano eruption.

When the awards finally arrived in Aruba, the Governor's staff noticed mine was missing.  After an inquiry, they found out that it was sent to DC instead of Aruba.  The Governor 's staff requested it be forwarded to Aruba.  However, there would not be enough time for my medal to arrive by April 29, the day everyone else would receive theirs in Aruba.  I was asked if I would consent for the medal to be sent to Aruba, and of course I did.

It turns out that these two events, the incorrect sending of my medal to DC, and the volcanic disruption to European travel, were fortuitous developments for me.  Had the medal been sent to Aruba directly, or had there been no disruption, I would have had to travel to Aruba at short notice to receive my Knighthood.  This is certainly an insignificantly small price to pay for such an honor.  However, the delay allowed me to choose (with the Governor's concurrence) a new date to receive the award.

The original date of April 29 would have made it impossible for my daughter to accompany me to Aruba.  That is because she would be taking the SAT test that weekend.  As a result, I would have had to receive the award without Agnes and the kids.  Also, my siblings would not have been able to travel to witness the event.  The delay caused by these now made it possible to correct these issues.

Happy Birthday Queen Beatrix

A few days later, we attended a reception at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington, DC in honor of the Queen's birthday.

Since I would not be traveling to Aruba to celebrate the Queen's birthday, we received an invitation to the Netherlands Embassy in DC for their birthday reception.  There I met the Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister and the Ambassador to the United States.

From the left to right, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Max Verhagen,
and Minister Plenipotentiary for Aruba, Jocelyn Croes.  She represents
Aruba's interests at the Embassy, and is very capable and
charismatic person.

This is the hostess of the reception, Dutch Ambassador to the United States,
Renee Jones-Bos.  It was very nice to be introduced to the guests
at the party by Jocelyn as "the one that received the Lion".

The Morning News put the story on their front page.
Original article and archived.

Announcement to the Hubble Space Telescope project written by
my good friend Dr. Will Clement.

Radio Interview with Radio Nederland Wereldomroep

in Papiamento(Native Aruban Language).
Archive: article or audio interview.

Going to Aruba

I chose a particular date in June to receive the Knighthood as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of my High School (Colegio Arubano) in Aruba.  I feel a debt of gratitude towards the education I received in Aruba, and I had always been hoping to attend the birthday party.  By picking the same date, I would be able to attend both on the same trip to Aruba. 

The Prime Minister of Aruba, Mr. Mike Eman was present to witness the ceremony.
I was most honored that he took the time to do that.

The ceremony started by the Governor of Aruba, Fredis Refunjol, reading the
citation and a biography.  The ceremony took place in the Governor's own office. 
I was very honored that he took the time to write the biography himself.
Here is a copy of his words.

Here he fastened the royal decoration to my coat.

We toasted to the health of Queen Beatrix ("view image" for larger size).

As with many major occasions, my good friend Poets was there
to celebrate the occasion.  He also filmed the event.

Left to right: Minister of Sports and Health Dr. Richard Visser, Prime Minister Mike Eman, me, Governor of Aruba, Minister of the Interior Benny Sievinger, Council of Ministers Nicole Hoevertsz.

I was really glad that the timing allowed my siblings and children to attend.  This
was worth the wait. ("view image" for larger size)

I gave hommage afterwards to my Mom and Dad.

The tie Aggie made me blends in well with the medal.

Front page of the local paper.
OriginalArchived version.

Diario's coverage in the online edition (archived)
Awe Mainta online edition (archived)
  Opinion article in Diario (archived) coverageArchived. articleArchived.
Amigoe di ArubaArchived.

Article in

Article in NASA's GoddardView (Page 4, August 2010).

NASA's Critical Path publication 2010 Summer/Fall.

Meeting Prime Minister Mike Eman
I had a private meeting with Prime Minister Mike Eman a few days
later, and he invited me to return for a speaking engagement
at a conference
in September 2010.
Press coverage in Diario (archived).

I have named this medal the "Aruba Lion".  It is dedicated to
those that made it possible: the people of Aruba.  The
teachers from my High School, my school friends,
my parents who pushed me always, and the
Aruban public that love space exploration.

It is also dedicated to my Hubble team mates.  My work
on HST is a small part of the discoveries that are
changing textbooks on a regular basis.  It is this
impact that is honored by the Aruba Lion.

The non-official aspects of this visit to Aruba
are continued on Summer 2010 Aruba page.


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