posted August 9, 2011

Professor Emeritus Jay Folkert Dies at Age 94

Dr. Jay E. Folkert

Professor Emeritus Jay E. Folkert died at age 94 on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Dr. Folkert taught at Hope for more than three decades (1946-1982) and played a formative role in the college’s mathematics program. The Jay Folkert and Charles S. Steketee Mathematics Research Fund at Hope is named in honor of him and colleague Charles S. Steketee. Folkert joined the faculty during a time of dramatic enrollment increases at the college, as former servicemen enrolled in large numbers following the end of World War II. He was a veteran of the war as well, serving as a weather officer in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945. He received the Bronze Star in 1944.

He chaired the department of mathematics at Hope for 14 years, from 1957 until 1971, and was also acting chairperson in the spring of 1974. During his first tenure as chair, the department moved into its current quarters in VanderWerf Hall, which opened in 1964, and the faculty increased from three professors to nine.

Improvements were made in the curriculum both in service courses and in courses for students majoring in mathematics. The mathematics major was strengthened both by the number of courses offered and also by the content and level at which they were taught.

Dr. Folkert was instrumental in the preliminary stages leading up to the purchase of the college’s first computer in the 1960s, and introduced the use of computers in teaching at Hope with his Introductory Statistics class. He was supportive of the creation of courses in computer science, which began in the mathematics program, with computer science becoming a separate department in the early 1970s.

He initiated a series National Science Foundation-supported summer institutes at Hope for high school teachers, directing the program for 10 years. Courses taught were especially designed for experienced teachers, and guest lecturers complemented the Hope faculty members involved in the undertaking.

Dr. Folkert was born in Overisel, Mich., and attended school in Overisel Township through eighth grade before enrolling in Hope College High School for four years. He subsequently attended the college, from which he graduated in 1939 with a mathematics major, and completed a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1940.

He began his professional career as a teacher in the Hamilton Public Schools from 1940 to 1942, teaching sixth to eighth grades until he entered the army. Following his wartime service, he returned to teaching in January 1946, initially in the mathematics department at Holland Christian High School until joining the Hope faculty in the fall of that year. During his time at Hope, in 1955, he completed his doctorate in mathematics at Michigan State University.

Active professionally beyond campus as well, he had chaired the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America in the early 1970s. Through the years he was also active in the Reformed Church in America, of which he was a life-long member, including as a deacon, elder and Sunday school teacher at Fourth Reformed Church in Holland; as president of the Holland Classis; as a member of the Board of Theological Education; and as treasurer and secretary of the Classical Board of Benevolence.

Surviving are his wife of 65 years, Marian Folkert of Holland, Mich.; children, Elaine (Hope Class of 1968) and Rev. Harvey Heneveld (Hope Class of 1969) of Zee­land, Mich., Rev. Victor (Hope Class of 1972) and Nancy Folkert (Hope Class of 1977) of Hickman, Neb., Calvin (Hope Class of 1981) and Eva Dean Folkert (Hope Class of 1983) of Hol­land, Mich.; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; a brother, a sister and three sisters-in-law.

Daughter-in-law Eva Dean Folkert is assistant professor of kinesiology and co-director of athletics at Hope.

The visitation will be at Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home on 315 East 16th St., Holland on Thursday, August 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. The funeral will be at Dimment Memorial Chapel on Friday, August 12 at 12:30 p.m.