Hope College is awarding honorary degrees to Dr. Dennis Voskuil and Betty Voskuil in recognition of the couple's long-time and distinguished service to the Reformed Church in America (RCA), the college's parent denomination.
They will each receive the Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) degree during the 9:30 a.m. Baccalaureate service held in conjunction with the college's graduation activities on Sunday, May 4, in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. They will also be jointly delivering the sermon during both the 9:30 a.m. service and the 11:30 a.m. service.
"Dennis previously served Hope with distinction as a faculty member in the religion department and is completing a significant tenure as president of Western Theological Seminary. Betty has been instrumental in many RCA denominational causes, especially as an ambassador of hope to the hungry," said Hope College President Dr. James E. Bultman. "We are very pleased as an institution to award these degrees in recognition of lives so well lived."
Dennis Voskuil is retiring in June after serving since 1994 as president of Western Theological Seminary, which is one of the RCA's two seminaries. During his tenure, the seminary adopted a new mission-based curriculum, launched a distance-learning Master of Divinity degree, restructured a continued-education program called Journey and initiated a Certificate in Urban Pastoral Ministries program. The seminary built the DeWitt Theological Center, additional student townhouses and Friendship House, in addition to renovating existing facilities. Enrollment has tripled from 59 to 177 Master of Divinity students, and the endowment has more than tripled, from $11 million to $43 million. In retirement he will continue to teach at the seminary, where he also holds the Marvin and Jerene DeWitt Chair of Church History.
He was a member of the Hope religion faculty from 1977 to 1994, serving as department chair for several years and two terms as a faculty representative to the college's Board of Trustees. The graduating class presented him with the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award in 1981, and he delivered the college's Baccalaureate sermon in 1980, Commencement address in 1985 and Opening Convocation address in 1993.
His publications have included essays for several books on religion in America and articles in the "Reformed Review," "Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought" and the "Church Herald." He is also the author of the book "Mountains into Gold Mines: Robert Schuller and the Gospel of Success."
Prior to joining the Hope faculty he had served churches in Watertown, Mass., and Kalamazoo, and while at Hope he was interim senior pastor of Third Reformed Church in Holland for two years. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, his B.D. at Western Theological Seminary and his doctorate at HarvardUniversity.
Betty Voskuil has served on the Board of Directors of Church World Service since 1998, including as chairperson from 2004 to 2007. The organization is the relief, development and refugee assistance ministry of 35 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations in the United States, including the RCA, and works worldwide.
Locally she has coordinated the Holland-Zeeland CROP Walk since 1979. Under her leadership the event has ranked in the top five nationally for more than 20 years and has been the leading walk in Michigan for 25 years.
She was director of Reformed Church World Service and Diaconal Ministries from 1998 until retiring in 2007, and coordinator of Hunger Education for the RCA from 1983 until retiring in 2007. She had also been Appalachian Mission supervisor for the RCA from 1988 to 1994.
She was on the Bread for the World Board of Directors from 1986 to 1998, and coordinated the organization's Ninth Congressional District from 1978 to 1983.
Her professional experience through the years has also included serving as a nutrition education consultant and lecturer; and as an adult-education and junior high school teacher. Her community service has also included coordinating an enrichment program for ADC mothers for two years and directing a summer migrant day care center.
She was named a Bread for the World Hunger Hero in 2004; received the Holland Hospital Community Care Award in 1998; and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Holland Rotary in 1997.
She is the author of numerous guides published by Reformed Church Press or the RCA and articles in the "Church Herald." She holds her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and an M.Ed. from Framingham State College.
The Voskuils have three children, daughter Elizabeth and sons Karsten and Derek, and seven grandchildren. Derek and Karsten are both Hope alumni, graduates of the Class of 1993 and 1996 respectively.
Admission to the college's Baccalaureate services is by ticket only.