Paul Heule ’85 was a teenager when his parents emigrated from the Netherlands and built a family home in Caledonia, Michigan, just south of Grand Rapids.
“We hosted visitors from the Netherlands all the time in our home,” remembered Heule. “It was like a little Dutch colony there.”
The Heules came to the U.S. partly because of the decisions of Paul’s older siblings to attend Calvin. His parents were concerned about the religious and political climate in Europe and did not want to separate the family.
“I had a year and a half of high school to complete before college, and I knew little English,” said Heule. “It was a challenge.”
He attended Calvin and stormed through the curriculum, graduating in three years. He also met his future wife, Rosemary Hager ’87.
Heule sees God’s hand in all of this, noting that he has been brought back to roots through an appointment as the Honorary Consul for the Netherlands in west Michigan.
“This has turned out to be a blessing for me,” he said. “My life has come full circle, and I am using the things I learned being a citizen of both countries to try to bring them closer together.”
Heule graduated with a mathematics major and computer science minor. He got his first job out of college by walking into a business with his résumé and complimenting the owners on their “cool” business card.
But having a very close relationship with his father, Heule always wanted to work with him. So in 1988 they purchased a 23-unit apartment complex that ultimately developed into Eenhoorn, LLC. The younger Heule did the “sweat equity” work while the elder Heule contributed the co-signing of a loan and business coaching.
Serving God, letting him guide you to your niche—that’s where I think you find happiness.Paul Heule ’85
“Eenhoorn is my mother’s maiden name, and it means ‘unicorn’ in Dutch,” said Heule. “There was—and still is—much symbolism in the name.”
From that first purchase in Grand Rapids, Eenhoorn has grown into a multinational business with holdings on three continents. It employs more than 200 people in nine states and two countries.
Heule attributes this growth to a reputation for excellent management and a willingness to take on challenging projects.
“We generally land where God wants us to be,” he said. “I now have the perspective to look back and see how almost all of us find our niche. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life while at Calvin, and somehow it all worked out.”
Paul and Rosemary have five daughters; two are Calvin graduates, two are current Calvin students and one is in middle school.
“There have been many studies on what makes for true happiness, and it is all about relationships,” he said. “There is always more work and more money to be made, but that is not ultimately fulfilling. Serving God, letting him guide you to your niche—that’s where I think you find happiness.”
His position as Honorary Dutch Consul came in 2010, when the current consul retired from the post and nominated Heule. That five-year appointment has recently been renewed by the Netherlands.
Heule’s focus in that position has been to encourage inter-country partnerships in business and the arts through the West Michigan Global Initiative, which he co-founded. He was also instrumental in getting the king and queen of the Netherlands to visit Grand Rapids last year.
He wants to dispel misperceptions on the part of both countries about the other.
“Some think people in the Netherlands are too progressive and that people in west Michigan are too conservative,” said Heule.
“Neither stereotype is true; the truth is in the middle, and there are great opportunities for collaboration.”