Hope College will present a Meritorious Service Award to Dr. Elton Bruins at a time and place eminently appropriate: during the rededication for Graves Hall - a ceremony that celebrates a project in which he played an important role.
The award recognizes a person's contributions to Hope and its alumni through notable personal service and long-time involvement with the college. Hope will present the award on Friday, Oct. 9, during the rededication ceremony, which will begin at noon and is taking place in conjunction with the college's Homecoming Weekend.
Dedicated in 1894, Graves Hall re-opened at the beginning of the school year in August after a year-long, $5.7 million, adaptive restoration that has emphasized a return to the building's original character while updating the 19th-century landmark for use in the 21st.
Bruins is former director of the college's A.C. Van Raalte Institute and the Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor Emeritus of Religion at Hope and was involved in the restoration planning as a scholar of the building's history. Long interested in local and campus history, he has written about the history of Graves Hall and was a member of the committee that guided the planning for the restoration.
Bruins was a member of the Hope religion faculty from 1966 until retiring in 1992. From 1984 to 1989 he served as dean for the arts and humanities, and in fall 1989 as acting provost. He became founding director of Hope's A.C. Van Raalte Institute in 1994, a position he held until 2002; he was subsequently named the Philip Phelps Jr. Research Professor at the institute. He retired from his research position in 2008, although he continues to work with the program informally.
His publications include dozens of articles on aspects of church and local history, and several books as editor or author, the latter including "The Americanization of a Congregation," on Third Reformed Church of Holland; "Isaac Cappon: Holland's 'Foremost Citizen'"; "Albertus C. Van Raalte: Dutch Leader and American Patriot," with Dr. Jeanne M. Jacobson and Larry J. Wagenaar; "Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches in the Nineteenth Century," with Dr. Robert P. Swierenga; and "Albertus and Christina: The Van Raalte Family, Home and Roots," with Karen G. Schakel, Sara Fredrickson Simmons and Marie N. Zingle. He is currently working on a book featuring the correspondence from 1857 to 1875 between Albertus C. Van Raalte and Philip Phelps Jr., Hope's first president.
The book "A Goodly Heritage: Essays in Honor of the Reverend Dr. Elton J. Bruins at Eighty" was published in celebration of his career in 2007. Edited by Dr. Jacob Nyenhuis, who succeeded Bruins as director of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute, the book features 15 essays by colleagues and former students that fall into three categories, all reflecting different aspects of Bruins's career: church history and theology, Albertus C. Van Raalte and local history.
Bruins graduated from Hope and Western Theological Seminary in 1950 and 1953 respectively, and subsequently completed a master's at Union Theological Seminary and doctorate at New York University. Prior to returning to Hope as a member of the faculty, he served as pastor of two Reformed churches in New York State.
Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.