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Robert P. Swierenga:
A Knight to Remember

This article and the following article,"Festschrift," draw from reports published in News from Hope College, August 2000 and The Joint Archives Quarterly 10, no. 2 (summer 2000).

For a career spent furthering Dutch-American studies, Dr. Robert P. Swierenga of the A. C. Van Raalte Institute received an early, and unexpected, birthday gift: he was knighted. Dr. Swierenga, who turned sixty-five on Saturday, 10 June 2000, was named a "Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion," in Hope College's Maas Center on Friday, 9 June. The knighthood was conferred on behalf of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands by Gilbert Monod de Froideville, Dutch Consul General in Chicago, Illinois.


Dr. Robert P. Swierenga smiles as he is presented with the
Knighthood Medal of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
by Consul General Gilbert Monod de Froideville

The surprise presentation took place at a conference in the Maas Center at Hope College held to celebrate the career of Dr. Swierenga, a career which has led to his becoming known as "the Dean of Dutch-American Studies." The event was sponsored by the Joint Archives of Holland, the A. C. Van Raalte Institute, and the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, the Netherlands. The royal decoration was proposed to the Dutch government by Larry Wagenaar, director of the Joint Archives, and Hans Krabbendam, assistant director of the Roosevelt Study Center, both former students of Dr. Swierenga.

Dr. Swierenga has been at Hope since 1996, serving as a senior research fellow with the college's A. C. Van Raalte Institute and as an adjunct professor of history. He had previously been a member of the history faculty at Kent State, where he served from 1969 until retiring in 1996. He has written or edited more than a dozen books and numerous journal articles, and has lectured widely on issues related to the Dutch in America. His research into Dutch emigration between 1820 and 1920, which has provided an important database for genealogists and fellow researchers, will soon be available on a CD-ROM with Broderbund. He holds his bachelor's degree from Calvin College, where he was an assistant professor from 1965 to 1968, his master's degree from Northwestern University, and his doctorate from the University of Iowa.

A participant in the conference as well as its guest of honor, Dr. Swierenga completed his keynote address on "The Third Generation and Dutch American Studies" immediately before the consul general spoke. "Now I truly am speechless," Dr. Swierenga told the delighted assemblage of colleagues who had come to honor him. "I thank the ambassador, the consul general, and the queen," he said, and added, smiling, "I can't believe it!"