Dr. Dennis Voskuil has been appointed director of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute at Hope College.
Voskuil, who is a retired president of Western Theological Seminary and a former member of the Hope religion faculty, is a specialist in the history of religion in America and has been a senior research fellow with the institute since 2014. He is the third director in the institute’s 21-year history, succeeding Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis, the director since 2002. His appointment became effective on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
“Dennis Voskuil’s experience in leadership at Western Theological Seminary and his dedication to teaching make him the right choice for the directorship of the Van Raalte Institute,” said Dr. Patrice Rankine, who is dean for the arts and humanities and a professor of Classics at Hope.
“As I shared in August at my retreat for arts and humanities department chairs and program directors, as up-and-coming leaders at Hope College, we are fortunate to have such eminent examples living among us,” he said. “Dennis Voskuil is one of the names I cited, along with Elton Bruins and Jack Nyenhuis, inaugural and outgoing directors of the VRI, respectively. Their dedication to the college and our shared mission are beacons for us. And they are lovely people, which is icing on the proverbial cake.”
Established in 1994, the Van Raalte Institute specializes in scholarly research and writing on immigration and the contributions of the Dutch and their descendants in the United States. The institute is also dedicated to the study of the history of all the people who have comprised the community of Holland throughout its history. Since its founding, the institute and its affiliated scholars have published 40 books. The institute is located in the Theil Research Center at 9 E. 10th St., between Central and College avenues.
Nyenhuis, who had previously served on the Hope faculty from 1975 until retiring as provost and professor of Classics emeritus in 2001, will continue to serve the institute as editor-in-chief of the Van Raalte Press. Under his leadership, the institute acquired the Theil Research Center, established a Visiting Research Fellows Program, founded the Van Raalte Press, significantly expanded the staff, and celebrated the bicentennial of the birth of Albertus C. Van Raalte with an international conference held on two continents. Bruins, who retired from the faculty as the Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor Emeritus of Religion in 1992 after teaching at the college since 1966, directed the institute from its inception until 2002 and continues to be involved as a research scholar.
Voskuil was president of Western Theological Seminary from 1994 until retiring in 2008, and in retirement has continued to teach as the Marvin and Jerene DeWitt Professor Emeritus of Church History. The seminary is one of two seminaries of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), which is also the college’s parent denomination.
His publications have included essays for several books on religion in America and articles in the “Reformed Review,” “Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought” and the “Church Herald.” His essay “The Vexed Question: Hope College and Theological Education in the West” is in the 2007 book “A Goodly Heritage: Essays in Honor of the Reverend Dr. Elton J. Bruins at Eighty,” edited by Nyenhuis and published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. as part of the Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America. He is also the author of the 1983 book “Mountains into Gold Mines: Robert Schuller and the Gospel of Success.”
During his tenure as president, the seminary adopted a new mission-based curriculum, launched a distance-learning Master of Divinity degree, restructured a continued-education program called Journey and initiated a Certificate in Urban Pastoral Ministries program. The seminary built the DeWitt Theological Center, additional student townhouses and Friendship House, in addition to renovating existing facilities. Enrollment tripled from 59 to 177 Master of Divinity students, and the endowment more than tripled, from $11 million to $43 million.
Voskuil was a member of the Hope religion faculty from 1977 to 1994, serving as department chair for several years and two terms as a faculty representative to the college’s Board of Trustees. The graduating class presented him with the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award in 1981, and he delivered the college’s Baccalaureate sermon in 1980, Commencement address in 1985 and Opening Convocation address in 1993. He and his wife Betty jointly delivered the Baccalaureate sermon in 2008, when Hope also presented each of them with honorary degrees, the Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) in recognition of the couple’s long-time and distinguished service to the RCA.
Prior to joining the Hope faculty he had served churches in Watertown, Massachusetts, and Kalamazoo, and while at Hope he was interim senior pastor of Third Reformed Church in Holland for two years. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, his B.D. at Western Theological Seminary and his doctorate at Harvard University.