William Spoelhof header

Current Chair (since 2017): Professor Derek Schuurman, Computer Science

Past Chair holders include:

Micah Watson, political scientist
Brian Kreisman, speech therapist
Kevin den Dulk, political scientist
Andras Visky, playwright
Youngkill Lee, scholar of therapeutic recreation
Doug Koopman, political scientist
Scott Thomas, scholar of religion and international relations
Gerald Van Kooten, geologist
James Ault, sociologist and documentary producer
Gerald Van Kooten, geologist
Daniel Bays, historian
Helen Sterk, communications scholar
Janel Curry, geographer
C. Stephen Evans, philosopher

The William Spoelhof Society


William Spoelhof possesses unusual gifts of intellect and action. A historian by training, he was an inspiring teacher, and proved that he was also an astute administrator in guiding Calvin College from 1951 to 1976. His leadership was inspired by his vision of Calvin College as an outstanding Christian institution, marked by academic excellence and Christian commitment. This vision continues to shape the college.

He came to the Presidency during the rising tide of student enrollment (1951-1976), when Calvin's enrollment grew from 1,000 students to over 3,500. With a team of capable associates he guided Calvin through the challenging transition to the Knollcrest campus. However, he saw the college as being far more than buildings and grounds. He emphasized her Christian perspective and her faithfulness to the Reformed tradition. He recognized that Calvin had the potential to become one of the truly distinguished undergraduate institutions of our country, and he worked to develop a faculty that is academically outstanding.

As teacher, historian, and President of Calvin College, William Spoelhof's life has been marked by a commitment to academic excellence and a vision for service. He viewed his work as an opportunity to serve the Lord, the church, the college, and the community. It is this legacy which Stanley and Harriet van Reken wish to celebrate in perpetuity.

To honor William Spoelhof for his Christian academic leadership, the van Rekens propose creating an endowed William Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar-In-Residence Chair. This chair will honor Spoelhof's deep interest in the continual growth of a Reformed Christian perspective as well as his commitment to academic excellence.


The donors of this unusual and timely gift are motivated to honor the distinguished former president of Calvin College for his long-held goal to find the procedures and means to bring to Calvin University, on a rotating basis, gifted teacher-scholars whose presence would enrich the academic ambience of the university. Within this program appointments will be made to in-residence faculty positions of persons whose proven records indicate a life of Christian commitment and public service as well as a concomitance with the spirit of the Calvin University community, by which faith and learning and life and vocation are integrated. The appointment of such persons to an in-residence faculty position would not necessarily be tied to declared staff openings or current curricular offerings.

A minimal beginning of such a plan, but short-lived, was made under the provision of the Calvin Foundation (1950-1981) which brought to the campus, in an In-Residence or in a Lectureship status, a number of Dutch and British teacher-scholars in the field of theology, law, psychology, and science. It focused primarily on foreign scholars whose lectures would be published. That program gained favorable acceptance but was too narrowly defined, overlooked a long-range developmental need, and was underfunded. A new long-range, permanently-funded plan was needed.

Stanley and Harriet van Reken also saw the need for an infusion of permanently funded resources to accomplish such a broad new program. They saw the need not only from the perspective of the college administration but from their own assessment of the college's role in making more effective the influence of Calvin and her graduates in public life and thought. They also demonstrated this concept by establishing the Christian Missionary Scholarship Foundation which supports numerous student scholarships at Calvin, Hope and Wheaton.

The primary purpose of the proposed chair is to strengthen and enhance a department or division of the university through the appointment of a gifted Christian scholar. Although this chair is established for an in-residence scholar and teacher, the provisions of the fund will be broadly interpreted to include, inter alia the following: distinguished lecture series, new experimental courses with attendant teaching materials, library acquisitions pertinent to the purposes of the chair, and similar matters normally considered to be among those included in the functions of the occupant of the chair. These projects may be carried out under the supervision of the Provost, in consultation with the Educational Policy Committee and the in-residence teacher-scholar.