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A Message from the Director

The A. C. Van Raalte Institute has now been in existence for nearly seven years. It was launched on 1 January 1994 with a gift from Mrs. Elizabeth Bovenkerk Huizenga and her children, Elizabeth Huizenga Buntrock, Suzanne Huizenga Kanis, Peter H. Huizenga, Ginger Huizenga Jurries, and J. C. Huizenga. The generosity of the family has provided a solid foundation for the Institute in which twelve persons are now involved in research and writing in the field of Dutch-American studies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Four members of the Van Raalte Institute are Fellows: Dr. Jeanne M. Jacobson, Dr. James C. Kennedy, Dr. Robert P. Swierenga, and myself. Since the Van Raalte Institute is a self-sustaining program within Hope College, the generosity of the Huizenga family is indispensable to its program of research and writing in Dutch-American studies. This report will highlight the various aspects of our program in order to present the increasingly broad scope of our work.

Hope College provides us with student assistants each year. Essy Sakala, Michelle Lubbers, Vicki Dryfhout, and Ramona Fruja served us in this capacity this past year by reading microfilm of immigration records and entering information into the data bank for the continuing project under the direction of Dr. Swierenga. Ms. Karen Schakel's duties include those of administrative assistant, supervisor of students, editor, receptionist, secretary, and hostess. One quickly understands why other Institute personnel consider her indispensable to the daily functioning of the Institute.

Rev. William Buursma, Ms. Nella Kennedy, and Dr. Henry ten Hoor, all fluent in the Dutch language, provide translation services to the Institute. Ms. Simone Kennedy also served as a translator during part of the past year. Dr. E. William Kennedy joined the Van Raalte Institute this past year as a consultant. He is editing the translation of the minutes of the Holland Classis, 1858 to 1876.

From time to time, we have persons at the Institute who are involved with their own projects but do some of their work at the Institute. Our interest in their projects and the opportunity to give them workspace offers support that enables them to achieve their goals. This year Rev. Michael de Vries, recently retired pastor of the historic Pillar Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan, will be in residence as he studies the first fifty years of Pillar Church, 1847-1897. The congregation was affiliated with the Reformed Church in America during much of this era but left in 1884 to unite with the Christian Reformed Church after the Masonic controversy. This congregation has a special history in the life of the Holland community because Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte, founder of the Holland Colony, was pastor of this church from 1847 to 1867.

The Institute's translation program continues apace. Rev. Buursma and Ms. Nella Kennedy have finished the translation of the minutes of the Holland Classis from 1858 through 1876 when the clerk of the Classis began writing the minutes in English. The minutes of Holland Classis for the period of 1848 to 1858 were translated and published in 1950. The Classis during the first three decades included all the Dutch-immigrant churches in Michigan. Dr. Bill Kennedy, in his editing of these minutes, is identifying the ministers and elders and where they emigrated from in the Netherlands. Since Rev. Buursma concluded his work on the Holland Classis minutes, he is now in the process of translating the minutes of the Consistory of the Pillar Church. Ms. Kennedy, who translated the first volume of the minutes of the Classis of Wisconsin, is now working on volume three. Unfortunately, the location of volume two is unknown. These minutes are valuable because the Classis of Wisconsin included all the Dutch-immigrant churches on the west side of Lake Michigan during the nineteenth century, including the congregations not only in Wisconsin but also those in Illinois. Dr. ten Hoor is translating all Dutch documents in the some thirteen hundred files in my collection of Van Raalte papers in photocopy. We hope that this project will be completed this year. The translation projects are important because they make available to non-Dutch-speaking users more and more material. Our growing collection of translations will augment holdings in the Joint Archives of Holland, which are located in the Van Wylen Library at Hope College.

A project of the Institute that we had hoped would be finished by now is the genealogy and history of the Van Raalte family. It has proven to be a much greater project than we first anticipated. Our intention is to have the genealogy and history fully documented. Ms. Marie Zingle and Ms. Sara Simmons, a great-great-granddaughter of the Van Raaltes, have done much of the research for this important genealogy. Ms. Schakel is now doing the editorial work.

It is likely that Ms. Simmons' genealogical work prompted her to initiate a Van Raalte family reunion that took place in Holland, Michigan, during the first weekend of August 2000. Van Raalte family members from across the country who attended the four-day event included Debby Bock and her family who live in Vienna, Austria. Debby and her sister, Melissa Klomparens Ramirez, shared organizational duties with Sara. The reunion was a great success. The family appreciated the support of the Institute in photocopying all materials for mailings for the reunion. The Institute was amply rewarded for its support because a member of the family loaned the letters of Julia Gilmore Van Raalte, a daughter-in-law of Rev. Albertus and Christina Van Raalte, for copying. Some of the letters were written when Julia lived in Amelia, Virginia, in 1871 and 1872.

Please review the annual listing of publications and presentations of the Fellows of the Institute. It has been a good year and the list shows the fruit of a great deal of study and writing. There are also several works in progress. Dr. James Kennedy reports on his continuing research, done in the Netherlands last summer, on the subject of euthanasia. Dr. Swierenga's major work is his study of the Dutch on the west side of Chicago. It will be a monumental work when completed.

Dr. Jacobson has contributed to the work of the Institute through her transatlantic copy-editing of manuscripts for books published by VU Uitgeverij, Amsterdam, the Nether-lands, as well as her preparation of our annual report. One of my current projects is editing approximately one hundred letters exchanged between Rev. Van Raalte and Rev. Philip Phelps, the first president of Hope College, beginning in 1857 and continuing through 1875, the year before Van Raalte died.

Our research library continues to grow. Two major gifts of books were received this past year. Dr. Barend de Vries, our guest lecturer in the fall of 1999, sent us many works from his library, including a three-volume set, Onze Gouden Eeuw: De Republiek der Vereenigde Nederlanden in Haar Bloetijd by Dr. P. L. Muller, published in Leiden in 1896. Dr. de Vries is a native of the Netherlands, and was associated with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for many years. An anonymous contributor from Seattle, Washington, gave the Institute ten volumes written by various eighteenth century oude schrijvers, such as Brakel and Hellenbroek. With occasional purchases of current publications, our library becomes more useful to us for research purposes each year.

The Van Raalte Institute works closely with several organizations. We helped the Joint Archives of Holland and the Roosevelt Center in Middelburg fund the conference in honor of Dr. Swierenga in June. The director of the Joint Archives, Mr. Larry Wagenaar, funded the reprinting of the Van Raalte biography, Albertus C. Van Raalte: Dutch Leader and American Patriot, which he, Dr. Jacobson, and I published in 1996. The first printing of one thousand copies has just been exhausted, and another thousand, the second printing by Wayne State University Press, are available through the Hope College Bookstore or the Joint Archives of Holland (email:

Dr. Robert Swierenga is heading the project of the Dutch Amercan Historical Commission (of which he, Dr. James Kennedy, and I are members) to translate and publish Amster-damse Emigranten onbekende brieven uit de prairie van Iowa 1846-1873, edited and published by Dr. J. Stellingwerff in 1975, and spearheading fundraising efforts for this project. Dr. Walter Lagerwey, retired professor of Dutch at Calvin College, is doing the translation. Dr. Swierenga is also playing a key role in the rejuvenation of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies, of which he is currently president. He edited For Food and Faith: Dutch Immigration to Western Michigan, 1846-1960, a lecture series at the Holland Museum; the Institute funded half the publishing costs. The Van Raalte Institute is a vital part of the growing network of organizations promoting Dutch-American studies.

One of the highlights of the past academic year at Hope College was the inauguration of Dr. James Bultman as its eleventh president. Members of the Institute were deeply impressed by the presidential inauguration lecture given by Dr. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary. He told his listeners that in preparation for his lecture he had reread the minutes of the Holland Classis from the years immediately after the founding of Holland, and found, in 1851, the "first mention of the need for a center of strong academic scholarship in this community." He spoke movingly of the importance for all colleges of maintaining a community of memory, and, for Christian colleges, of remembering their origins which spring ex corde ecclesiae -- out of the heart of the church.

As the Institute is becoming better known, we are pleased to receive more visitors each year, many of who were from the Netherlands this past year. We are always happy to serve coffee and Dutch cookies to make our visitors feel at home with us. We are also pleased to have the support of the administration of Hope College of which we are a part: Dr. James E. Bultman, president; Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis, provost; and Mr. Alfredo Gonzales, assistant provost. They are very considerate of our needs and support our goals. It is our distinct privilege to be a program of Hope College and experience the many benefits of the college community.

The official hours of the Institute are from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each weekday and afternoons by appointment. Our telephone number is 616-395-7678, our e-mail address is and our fax number is 616-395-7120. Institute news is available at our website: the address is

Elton J. Bruins,     
Director, A. C. Van Raalte Institute