July 05, 2013 | Matt Kucinski

A snowball fight at a recent English department writer's retreat

On Wednesday, July 3, Calvin professor Bill Vande Kopple died unexpectedly, following a pancreatic cancer diagnosis just a week earlier. Vande Kopple, 63, taught in Calvin's English department for more than 30 years. He served as co-chair of the department since 2008.

Vande Kopple's colleagues have fond memories of working with him (A full 'in memoriam piece' will follow next week).

In a letter to the Calvin community on Wednesday night, English department co-chair Elizabeth Vander Lei wrote, "Bill was a great and gracious presence among us: he was a much-loved professor, a profilic scholar, a wise mentor, and a good friend."

Vander Lei singled out working with students as his greatest joy. And, students were fond of Vande Kopple as well. The 2004 senior class voted him Professor of the Year. He had a particular interest in the mentoring of secondary education students.

"His fine teaching is echoed in the teaching of these students, and through their teaching Bill continues to shape young people's lives," wrote Vander Lei.

A 1972 graduate of Calvin College, Vande Kopple earned a masters and PhD in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago in 1973 and 1980 respectively.

At Calvin, his teaching interests included rhetoric and composition, stylistics, linguistics, the history of the English Language and Secondary Education Teaching Theories and Methods, just to name a few.

Vande Kopple was also well respected outside the classroom, both by his colleagues at Calvin and those in broader writing circles. He published articles in dozens of education and English journals and enjoyed writing creative non-fiction. Some of his favorite writings combined his love for fishing and his family, including The Catch: Families Fishing, and Faith, The Release: More Tales of Families, Fishing, and Faith and The Lure, Still More Stories of Families, Fishing and Faith.

"Losing Bill leaves us all feeling more than a little lost," wrote Vander Lei. "While we do not grieve as those without hope, we do struggle to imagine the department—the world—without Bill a part of it."

Vande Kopple is survived by his wife, Wanda; his sons Jon (Tiffany), Joel and Jason; and his grandson, Kincaid.

Visitation will be held from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Sunday, July 7, at Zaagman Memorial Chapel. The funeral will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, July 8, at Alger Park Christian Reformed Church.

Bill Vande Kopple, Gary Schmidt

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