|hope college > van raalte institute|
The A. C. Van Raalte Institute was established in 1993, through the generosity of a Hope College graduate and trustee, Peter H. Huizenga (Class of 1960). The initial idea for an institute was provided by James Ver Meulen, a former member of the Hope College Board of Trustees with a strong interest in the history of Hope College and the nineteenth-century Dutch immigration to Western Michigan. Before his death in the mid-1980s, Mr. Ver Meulen wrote to fellow trustee Huizenga, proposing that they meet to discuss his concept of a research institute on Dutch-American studies, which would be located at the college. A few years later, Mr. Huizenga provided the means to translate the idea into reality.
Hope College President John H. Jacobson appointed Dr. Elton J. Bruins, the Evert and Hattie Blekkink Professor of Religion Emeritus, as director of the Institute in April 1993. Dr. Bruins had devoted much of his career to research on Albertus C. Van Raalte and Mr. Ver Meulen had often encouraged him in his work. Mr. Ver Meulen had also suggested to Mr. Huizenga that Dr. Bruins would be the ideal person to head up the research institute that he envisioned. Dr. Bruins had been retired from teaching less than a year when he was appointed to head up this new research institute.
The Institute became a physical presence in January 1994, when Dr. Bruins was given office space in Van Zoeren Hall. He resigned his post as founding director on 1 July 2002, but has remained active as a researcher. In January 2004, on the occasion of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Institute, he was named the Philip Phelps Jr. Research Professor. This newly-created research professorship honors the memory of one of the principals of the Holland Academy, who became the first president of Hope College. Dr. Bruins’s research on Dr. Phelps has led him to argue that Dr. Phelps should be acknowledged as the legitimate founder of Hope College, although Dr. Van Raalte had a major role in its establishment. In collaboration with the late Karen G. Schakel, Dr. Bruins has edited the correspondence between Dr. Van Raalte and President Phelps; the resulting book, The Formation of a Christian College Called Hope: The Correspondence of Albertus C. Van Raalte to Philip Phelps, Jr., 1857-1875, is to be published in 2010 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing as part of the Reformed Church in America Historical Series. Even though he officially retired from his research professorship in December 2008, Dr. Bruins remains actively engaged as a consultant to the Institute.
In May 1996, the foremost scholar of nineteenth-century Dutch-American studies, Dr. Robert P. Swierenga, joined the staff of the Institute. A Chicago native and friend of Peter Huizenga, Dr. Swierenga took early retirement from his post as Professor of History at Kent State University in Ohio, to accept appointment as the A. C. Van Raalte Research Professor and adjunct professor of history.In the same year, Dr. Jeanne M. Jacobson resigned from the faculty of Western Michigan University to accept a position as Senior Research Fellow of the Van Raalte Institute and adjunct professor of education. Dr. Jacobson's background included an interest in American history and Dutch and Huguenot immigration to America, and extensive experience as an editor and author. After she moved to Sarasota with her husband, Dr. John H. Jacobson (1933-2005), upon his retirement from the presidency of Hope College in 1999, she continued to be active in the work of the Institute, editing the Annual Report and contributing essays to Institute publications, until her death in January 2009.
Dr. James C. Kennedy joined the faculty of Hope College in the fall of 1997, as assistant professor of history and research fellow of the Van Raalte Institute. His primary area of expertise in modern European history, with a concentration in Dutch history, made him an excellent addition to the staff. Dr. Kennedy had lived in the Netherlands, is fluent in the Dutch language, and already enjoyed considerable prestige and recognition in the Netherlands. In 2003, the Free University of Amsterdam appointed him as professor of contemporary history, so he took a two-year leave of absence from Hope, while maintaining his active connection with the Van Raalte Institute. In June 2005, however, he resigned his post at Hope and committed himself fully to the Free University. In 2007, he accepted a position at the University of Amsterdam as professor of the history of the Netherlands since the Middle Ages.
Karen Schakel joined the staff in September 1997 as office manager and editorial assistant. She served faithfully and with high distinction until her death in December 2009.
Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis was appointed Senior Research Fellow at the Van Raalte Institute in September 2001, following his retirement from the Hope College faculty in June 2001 after twenty-six years at the college, the last seventeen as provost and professor of classics. He was named the director of the A. C. Van Raalte Institute 1 July 2002.In September 2004, the Van Raalte Institute and the Joint Archives of Holland moved into the new Theil Research Center at 9 East Tenth Street, on the western edge of the Hope College campus. The Theil Research Center was a gift from Eleonore Goldschmidt Theil in fulfillment of a commitment made by her and her late husband, the eminent economist Dr. Henri Theil.
In anticipation of this move into larger facilities, the staff was expanded in December 2003 to include two new Senior Research Fellows: Dr. Donald J. Bruggink, the James A. H. Cornell Professor of Historical Theology, Emeritus, of Western Theological Seminary, and Dr. Earl Wm. Kennedy, Professor Emeritus of Religion, Northwestern College (Iowa). In January 2010, Cornelia “Nella” B. Kennedy, former archivist, art historian and lecturer in Dutch language at Northwestern College (Iowa), was appointed as Senior Research Fellow and Official Translator.
Since the Institute's earliest years, Hope College students and recent graduates have worked as research assistants to members of the Institute. Karsten Voskuil, Elisabeth Dekker, John Krueger, Seth Bruggers, Jodie Grabill, Theresa Hansen, Esnart Sakala, Michelle Lubbers, Ramona Fruja, Vickie Dryfhout, Christina Van Regenmorter, Erica Heeg, Cynthia Bachhuber, Mary Otterness, Michael Douma, Daniel J. Carter, Lauren M. Berka, Laura Shears, Kimberly Boyd, and Brigid Maniates have all made considerable contributions to the Institute.
Revised on 17 March 2010