Dr. Jacob and Leona Nyenhuis

The Van Raalte Institute and Hope College have honored Dr. Jacob and Leona Nyenhuis for their many decades of scholarship and service with the addition of their names to the Theil Research Center, home of the Van Raalte Institute since 2004.

Jacob Nyenhuis is a past director of the college’s A.C. Van Raalte Institute, which he had previously been instrumental in creating while serving as the college’s provost.  Leona Nyenhuis, graduated with an art history major in 1993 after attending Hope as a non-traditional student while her husband served at the college.  The announcement of the name change — a surprise to the couple — was made during a ceremony at the center on Thursday, Sept. 14.

“For his wise leadership, firm guardianship, faithful stewardship, commitment to scholarly excellence, and kind friendship and encouragement, we the members of the Van Raalte Institute are proud to claim Jack as one of our own and celebrate his life among us for these past 22 years,” said Dr. Donald A. Luidens, who is the institute’s current director as well as a professor emeritus of sociology.

“Leona (Lee) Nyenhuis has been a long-time partner in Jack’s many responsibilities as a faculty member and administrator at Hope College, Wayne State University, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and Calvin University,” Luidens said. “Together with Jack, she is a cofounder of the Leona M. and Jacob E. Nyenhuis Sculpture Garden, a wonderful reflection of her artistic sensibilities. In recent years, she has been a faithful and valued member of the Van Raalte Institute family.”

The new formal name of the building is the “Henri and Eleonore Theil and Jacob E. and Leona M. Nyenhuis Research Center,” or the “Theil-Nyenhuis Research Center.” The building was named for Eleonore Goldschmidt Theil and her late husband, the eminent economist Dr. Henri Theil, in 2004 in honor of an estate gift to the college.

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.

Jacob Nyenhuis, along with Hope professor Dr. Elton J. Bruins, worked closely with Peter H. Huizenga to secure a sizable endowment to establish the institute in 1994, with Bruins appointed founding director.  Nyenhuis joined the institute as a senior research fellow in September 2001 after retiring from the Hope faculty; he had served 26 years at the college, the last 17 as provost and professor of classics.

He succeeded Bruins in 2002 and served as director until 2019. During his tenure, among many other achievements, he founded the Visiting Research Fellows Lecture Series; organized an international, bilateral conference celebrating the birth of Van Raalte; and increased the number of senior fellows to eight, with numerous visiting and honorary research fellows from around the world contributing to the research and publication of the institute.

To facilitate the publication of the scholarship of the Van Raalte Institute, Jacob Nyenhuis founded the Van Raalte Press in 2007, serving as editor-in-chief until the role was transferred to Luidens this month. The press published 30 titles with 37 volumes during Nyenhuis’ tenure, including four jointly with Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.  Three of the titles have been honored with a State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan: “Holland, Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City” (Robert P. Swierenga, 3 volumes, 2014); “Hope College at 150: Anchored in Faith, Educating for Leadership and Service in a Global Society” (Nyenhuis and others, two volumes, 2019); and “A Constant State of Emergency: Paul de Kruif, Microbe Hunter and Health Activist” (Jan Peter Verhave, 2020).

Purchased by Hope from Fifth Third Bank in 2002 and located at 9 E. 10th St. between College and Columbia avenues, the Theil-Nyenhuis Research Center had previously served as temporary quarters for the college’s Department of Psychology during construction of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center.  The Van Raalte Institute was housed in the college’s Anderson-Werkman Financial Center at 100 E. Eighth St. prior to moving to the building.

More information about the Van Raalte Institute is available online at hope.edu/vri