|hope college > van raalte institute|
The A. C. Van Raalte Institute was established in 1993, through the generosity of 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, 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, Peter Huizenga provided the means to translate the idea into reality.
The Institute is named in honor of the founder of Holland, Michigan, the Reverend Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte (1811-1876), who also played a key role in the founding of Hope College. Van Raalte arrived in western Michigan with a small group of followers on 9 February 1847. His vision for this colony of Seceders from the State Church of the Netherlands is incorporated into the Mission Statement of the A. C. Van Raalte 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, 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. 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, Florida, 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. 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. In April 2010, JoHannah Smith began work at the Institute as Karen's successor.
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, 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.
Updated 5 June 2013