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Back and Looking Ahead
After serving as director of the Van Raalte Institute from 1 January 1994 to 30 June 2002, I happily stepped down from this administrative position and became a senior research fellow. It pleases me very much that my good friend and long-time colleague Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis has been appointed to succeed me. We have a long history together. When he was appointed Dean for the Humanities at Hope College in 1975, I was a member of the Religion Department. He appointed me chair of the department in 1977, a position in which I served until the summer of 1984 when I succeeded him as Dean for the Arts and Humanities. During the first semester of the 1989-90 academic year, I substituted for him in the Provost’s office while he had a much-deserved sabbatical. Having an intimate knowledge of his administrative skills and academic achievement, I am confident that he will lead the Van Raalte Institute to new heights.
Looking back on the eight and one-half years during which I served as founding director, I feel especially grateful to the Huizenga family and the administration of Hope College. Financial support for the Institute came through the endowment gift of the Huizenga family. The administration of the college, particularly President John H. Jacobson, President James E. Bultman, Provost Jacob E. Nyenhuis, Associate Provost Alfredo M. Gonzales, and Vice President of Finance Barry L. Werkman, guided and supported me. These people share fully in any success the Institute has achieved.
Now relieved of administrative duties at the Institute, I hope to be able to give greater attention to my research projects. The major one is editing the letters of Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte to President Philip Phelps Jr. The ninety-five letters begin in 1857 and continue into 1875, a year before Van Raalte’s death. The letters are a mine of information about the early years of the college and its relationship to the Reformed Church in America.
The new director has asked me to continue to oversee the Institute’s program of translation of nineteenth century Dutch documents. Translated documents, such as the minutes of the Classis of Holland 1858-76 and the minutes of the Pillar Church, are major research resources and are especially valuable as many people now interested in Dutch-American history do not have a command of the Dutch language. I am grateful to William and Althea Buursma, Ellie Dekker, Nella Kennedy, Simone Kennedy, and Henry ten Hoor for their past and continuing work in our translation program. Dr. E. William Kennedy is in the midst of a long-term project of careful annotation of the translation of the minutes of the Classis of Holland, 1858- 76.
I continue to update my files documenting the life and work of Albertus C. Van Raalte, founder of Holland, Michigan. My records now consist of 1,740 files of photocopied letters, writings, and financial records of Van Raalte. Dr. ten Hoor has translated most of the documents that are in Dutch. Nella Kennedy is currently completing the translation of those that remain. When Dr. Robert Swierenga begins writing a definitive biography of Dr. Van Raalte, my files will be his major resource and save him much time looking for information. I also continue to add to my files of clippings on local, Hope College, and Reformed Church in America events. The approximately fifty feet of these clipping files and my more than 600 volumes in the Dutch-American field form a basis for our continuing research projects at the Institute. I look forward to my continuing association with the Van Raalte Institute and remaining a productive researcher and scholar.