Dr. Sander de HaanDr. Sander de Haan

Dr. Sander de Haan, who retired from Hope as a professor of German and Dutch in 2018 after nearly 40 years on the faculty, died on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 78.

He joined the faculty in 1979 and was initially appointed to teach German, with his responsibilities growing to include teaching Dutch and Russian due to student interest.  His additional service to the college ranged from chairing the Department of Modern and Classical Languages for 15 years; to serving on governance boards and committees including the Academic Affairs Board; being faculty liaison to the Chicago Semester; coaching volleyball for two years; advising the Centurian fraternity; and leading, with his wife Georgia, two educational international tours to Europe organized by the Office of Alumni and Family Engagement.

He helped develop and was part of the faculty team that taught the interdisciplinary two-course sequence “Two Souls of Germany.”  His scholarly work focused on Friedrich Nietzsche’s impact on European civilization.

In retirement, reflecting his devout Christian faith, he returned to Hope regularly to pray with members of the campus community.

de Haan was born in the Netherlands and immigrated with his family to Pella, Iowa, when he was seven.  He graduated from Calvin University with a German major in 1967 and a master’s in German at Northwestern University in 1970.  He subsequently served in the U.S. Air Force — where he learned Russian — stationed in Germany before returning to the U.S. to complete his doctorate at Northwestern University and begin his teaching career.  He taught at both Elmhurst University and Calvin University before coming to Hope.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Cornelius and Nelly; sister, Tina (de Haan) Westra; two younger brothers, Peter and Case de Haan; sister-in-law, Victoria de Haan; brothers-in-law, Chester Geels, Gerald Kuiper, Henry Stavinga, Charles VanWaardhuizen, Gerald Schuiling; and niece and nephew, Michelle and Aaron VanWaardhuizen.

Georgia, his wife of 57 years, who survives him, was a member of the college's Admissions staff from 1988 until retiring in April of 2022.  In addition to Georgia, survivors include their children, Christopher, Elizabeth (de Haan) Boeve and her husband Kevin and their two daughters Olivia and Samantha, Alexander and his wife Rachel and their four boys Jacob, Charles, Clayton, and Deacon, and Nicholas and his partner Jose; siblings Corrine Smeda, Guy and MaryAn, Ralph and LuAnn, Frederick; sisters-in-law Paula de Haan, Gretta Geels, Nancy Kuiper, Carole Stavinga, Frances VanWaardhuizen, Myrna Schuiling; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and -nephews.

Visitation with friends and relatives will be on Sunday, May 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Cook Funeral Home, 2067 84th St. in Byron Center, Michigan. There will be a celebration of his life on Monday, May 13, at 11 a.m., with visitation one hour prior to the service, at First Cutlerville Christian Reformed Church, 1425 68th St. SW in Byron Center, with Pastor Josh VanDrunen officiating. Interment will be at Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his honor to the following charities or a nonprofit of your choice: Kids Hope USA (https://kidshopeusa.org/donate), Byron Center Christian School (https://www.bccs.org/support-us), World Renew (CRWRC) (https://worldrenew.net/donate) or the Alzheimer’s Association (https://www.alz.org).

The feature story about him that the college shared when he retired is available online, as is his obituary.