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Chicago, Chicago! And Beyond
Dr. Swierenga reports

The response to my book Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City has been overwhelming. The official release took place in a ceremony at the Chicago Historical Society on 6 November 2002 under the auspices of William B. Eerdmans Jr., president of the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. At the ceremony, the Honorable Edward M. Burke, Chicago City Alderman, presented me with an official resolution by the City Council, signed by Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Dutch Chicago proved to be the best-selling title in the Wm. B. Eerdmans booklist for the month of December 2002. Some grandparents reportedly received up to three copies from their children as Christmas gifts. Other book signing opportunities in the Chicago area took place at my alma mater, Timothy Christian School, and at Trinity Christian College. These and other promotions were arranged by a committee formed by Peter H. Huizenga, benefactor of the Van Raalte Institute, and headed by Dr. Arnold Hoving, retired superintendent of Timothy Christian Schools. In West Michigan the Calvin College Alumni Office and two Baker Book House retail stores scheduled similar signing opportunities, and alumni offices at both Hope and Calvin Colleges arranged for me to lecture on the topic. Three Netherlands newspapers have carried extensive reviews of Dutch Chicago, including Trouw, NRC Handelsblad, and Dagblad Van Het Norden.

I was honored as Distinguished Alumnus for 2003 by Calvin College at the May Commencement ceremony. In the days prior to the ceremony, I had opportunities at two faculty-board functions to reflect on the many ways in which the "Calvin experience" shaped my career as a teacher and scholar. The summer 2003 issue of the Calvin Alumni magazine Spark carried an extensive interview that expanded on these recollections and reflections.

A book editing project that is nearing completion after more than three years of work is a collection of immigrant letters that passed between the Netherlands and the Iowa frontier. The book, under the auspices of the Dutch American Historical Commission (a consortium of four West Michigan institutions—Hope College, Western Theological Seminary, Calvin College, and Calvin Theological Seminay), will be published next year under the title Iowa Letters: Dutch Immigrants on the American Frontier.

One spin-off from Dutch Chicago in which I am presently engaged is to write a history of Chicago's Elim Christian School, the largest private Christian educational institution in the country, with its companion adult workshop and residential facilities. Elim was founded in 1948 by Dutch Reformed Christians with a heart for the handicapped. It flourished beyond all expectations, and recently the school "for exceptional children" celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

In June I participated, along with colleague Jack Nyenhuis in the fourth conference of the International Society for the Study of Reformed Communities held at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In keeping with the conference theme of the impact of modernity on Reformed congregations, my presentation described the differential experiences of the two Dutch immigrant congregations on Chicago's West Side, First Reformed and First Christian Reformed churches.