The Hope College Alumni Association will present five graduates with Distinguished Alumni Awards during the college's Alumni Day on Saturday, May 2.
Being honored this year are Dr. Richard Decker of
Deerfield, Ill.; Dr. Renze Hoeksema of Holland; the Rev. Del
Vander Haar and Trudy Vander Haar of Holland; and the Rev.
Dr. Charles Van Engen of Glendora, Calif.
The annual Distinguished Alumni Awards are
presented by the Alumni Association Board of Directors in
recognition of the awardees' contributions to society and
service to Hope. The award, presented during the college's
Alumni Banquet, is the highest honor that alumni can receive
from the college's Alumni Association.
Decker, a 1956 graduate who retired in 1996, spent
his career as a medical research scientist specializing in
research on two major chronic diseases: viral hepatitis and
AIDS. During the 25 years he was with Abbott Laboratories,
his research team developed most of the tests currently used
worldwide to screen donor blood and to diagnose the
Throughout his career, he has worked to raise the
awareness of the public and medical community to the risk
factors of the diseases and to find ways to control their
spread. He has written more than 100 articles, chapters and
books on the topics, and has conducted courses and lectures
in 33 countries.
In 1989, Abbott Laboratories honored Decker as the
first recipient of the corporation's "Outstanding Scientist"
award. An accompanying financial grant started a
scholarship fund in chemistry at Hope.
Since retiring, Decker has continued to serve the
public health community in efforts aimed at controlling the
growing threat of both hepatitis and AIDS. He currently
serves on a subcommittee of the World Health Organization to
produce international test standards for the viruses.
He holds a master's from the University of
Illinois, and a doctorate from Oklahoma State University.
He is an elder in the Reformed Church in America (RCA).
He and his wife, Mary, have three children,
Stephen, Richard and Stephanie, and two grandchildren.
Hoeksema, who is a 1948 Hope graduate, was a
professor of political science at Hope from 1971 until
retiring in 1986.
Before becoming a student at Hope, he was an
officer in the U.S. Army during World War II, serving on the
intelligence staff of General Douglas MacArthur. He
completed his Hope education in only two-and-a-half years,
and went on to earn a master's and doctorate from Harvard
Prior to joining the Hope faculty, Hoeksema had
been a foreign service officer with the U.S. State
Department, serving, between 1951 and 1971, in Washington,
D.C., Australia, the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Iran,
Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
While at Hope, Hoeksema directed the Model United
Nations, Washington Honors Semester and Washington May Term.
He also originated courses in the politics of Southeast
Asia, the Far East, the Middle East and the Soviet Union, as
well as a course in race and ethnic relations in the United
States. Because of his experience and training, in 1979 he
was a consultant for the peace talks between the late
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, former Israeli Prime
Minister Menachem Begin and former President Jimmy Carter.
His activities since retiring have included
helping found the Hope Academy of Senior Professionals,
established in 1988, and serving as the 1991-92 president of
the Holland Rotary Club.
He and his wife, Marjorie, have three children,
all of whom are Hope alumni: Richard, Margot and Renze.
The Vander Haars have spent more than 50 years
serving the RCA, in pastorates and at the denominational
They were married in June of 1947, shortly after
Del, a 1944 Hope graduate, completed his B.D. at Western
Theological Seminary and Trudy graduated from Hope. In July
of that year, they became the staff of Trinity Reformed
Church in Fulton, Ill.--Del as pastor, and Trudy as the
unpaid pastor's assistant, serving until 1953. A second
pastorate, at Bethel Reformed Church in Sheldon, Iowa,
followed from 1953 to 1960.
From 1960 to 1969, Del co-directed the RCA Youth
Department. His responsibilities included organizing the
Reformed Church Youth Fellowship, directing the Caravan
program and organizing workcamps. Trudy participated in the
workcamps and National Youth Assemblies, in addition to
serving as Youth Director at First Reformed Church in
In 1969, the RCA asked Del to begin a regional
office in Anaheim, Calif., and to develop a Family Life
Ministry for the denomination. After both doing graduate
work, with Del earning a master's from Azusa (Calif.)
Pacific College, Del and Trudy together developed a variety
of Family Life Seminars. They led around 150 of these
events for the RCA and for ecumenical gatherings. Del also
coordinated the 1972 RCA Family Festival for 3,000
participants at Estes Park, Colo.
Their Family Life work continued even after Del
became secretary for western services for the RCA, based in
Orange City, Iowa, in 1973. Trudy wrote "Advent," a
resource book for congregations and families, and they co-
authored "Growing in Marriage" for congregational marriage
enrichment courses as well as other printed resources.
In 1982, Del became secretary for stewardship
development for the RCA's western region. During this time,
they represented the denomination at the International
Congress on Evangelism in Thailand and visited several RCA
mission stations worldwide. Trudy remained active with
their local congregation, serving as elder at Trinity
Reformed Church, and writing and speaking. She also chaired
the 1989 Reformed Church Women's Triennial, held at Hope.
After Del retired in 1989, they served for three
years at the English-speaking Yokohama Union Church in
Japan. They moved to Holland in 1992, and Del became
assistant minister of pastoral care at Hope Church in 1993,
a position he still holds.
Both have served as officers of the college's
"Fifty-Year Circle," comprised of alumni who graduated 50 or
more years ago: Del as president during 1994-95, and Trudy
as secretary this year. Both have been active with reunion
planning, Trudy served as a Class Representative, and Del
was a member of Hope's Board of Trustees in 1951-52 and
All four of their children are Hope graduates:
Timothy, David, Philip and Jane.
Van Engen, a 1970 Hope graduate, is the Arthur F.
Glasser Professor of Biblical Theology of Mission in the
School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. He
was elected president of the RCA's General Synod in 1997,
serving previously as vice president. He is also delivering
the sermon during Hope's Baccalaureate services this year.
He has been on the faculty at Fuller Theological
Seminary since 1988, and was appointed to his endowed chair
in 1996. From 1985 to 1988, he was an assistant professor
of missiology at Western Theological Seminary.
He was previously a missionary for the RCA for 12
years, working with his wife, Jean, who is also a 1970 Hope
graduate, with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico in
the state of Chiapas.
Van Engen is the author or editor of more than 20
books, including "God's Missionary People: Rethinking the
Purpose of the Local Church" and "Mission on the Way:
Issues in Mission Theology." He has preached, taught and
spoken extensively on mission in Mexico and elsewhere in
Latin America, Asia and the United States.
He holds a master of divinity from Fuller
Theological Seminary, and doctorandus and Ph.D. degrees from
the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The Van Engens have three children: Anita, who is
graduating this year, Amelia and Andrew.