Donald Oppewal


Education was always integral to who Don Oppewal was. From teaching high school to writing numerous articles, books, and texts on education, particularly Christian education, Oppewal was always seeking or sharing knowledge.

For 30 years he imparted that wisdom to countless Calvin students studying to be teachers. Oppewal died on May 19; he was 91.

“Don was deeply committed to Christian education at all levels,” said former Calvin colleague Yvonne Van Ee. “He wrote about it, spoke about it, and challenged all of us to think about it. He taught philosophy of education and asked students to consider various philosophers and philosophies through the Reformed worldview lens.”

Oppewal’s teaching reached far beyond the Calvin campus. He helped establish the Christian Educators Journal and served as managing editor for more than a decade. He also published articles on topics such as the integration of faith and learning, teaching tenure and turnover, and the need for Christian textbooks in the Reformed Journal, Educational Forum, Christian Legal Society Quarterly, and Christian Scholar’s Review.

Upon his retirement in 1991, Oppewal volunteered as both a construction worker and educational consultant for schools in Belize, Dominican Republic, and Honduras. He also continued writing, publishing Voices from the Past: Reformed Educators, a book dedicated to the voices of numerous spokespersons devoted to Christian education.

Oppewal is survived by his wife, Jessica; children Gwen Beversluis, Jo Boersma, Dan (Mary) Oppewal, Jim Oppewal, Donna Oppewal, Paul (Tammy) Oppewal; 15 grandchildren; 35 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren

Gordon Van Harn


“To be faithful to my God and Creator in all that I do,” said Gordon Van Harn in 2004 upon receiving the Faith and Learn- ing Award from Calvin College to articulate his mission in life.

Van Harn faithfully served Calvin College for nearly 40 years as a professor of biology (1961–1982), academic dean (1982–1985), provost (1985–1996), and professor of interdisciplinary studies (1996–1999).

He died on April 3, at the age of 82.

“He was the embodiment of the values and personal qualities of the Calvin community,” said former Calvin president Tony Diekema. “He modeled for all of the faculty the essence of a pursuit of excellence within a Christian academic community. In short, Gord was the solid and sound academic voice of the college both within and beyond the campus.”

Van Harn had many accom- plishments during his tenure as provost, which centered around his commitment to the integration of faith and learning, his development of faculty and students, and his interest in and support of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Following his tenure at Calvin, Van Harn joined the science education initiative at the Van Andel Institute, where his vision to establish a graduate school came to fruition. He also served multiple terms on the boards of Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL), and Lighthouse Academy.

Van Harn is survived by his wife, Mary; his children, Pam (Harry) Plantinga, Mark (Kim) Van Harn, and Barbara (Joel) Adams; and nine grandchildren.

Phil Lucasse


Phil Lucasse was a teacher of teachers, spending the vast majority of his career inspiring young people with his energy and creative enthusiasm.

“Phil’s approach was always to be ‘all-in,’” said former colleague Steve Timmermans. “Exhibiting a love for the Creator and the Creation, Phil sought to instill in those he led a sense of wonder and appreciation, critical driving forces for both aspiring teach- ers and budding students.”

Lucasse died on May 5, at the age of 90.

He first came to Calvin as a student after serving in the U.S. Navy. He earned a degree in engineering, but turned to teaching in the early 1950s, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

His tenure of employment at Calvin began in 1956, when he served for 13 years as dean of men. After completing a PhD in education, Lucasse returned to Calvin, this time to the education department, where he served until his “official” retirement in 1991. Always the teacher, however, Lucasse stayed on at Calvin, working part-time in the education curriculum center for 20 more years.

He served on the task force that lead to the establishment of the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) for senior learners in 1996. He served as the first president and was later given a Distinguished Service Award. He continued his own education by taking numerous CALL classes.

Lucasse is survived by his wife, Carolyn; children Anne Lucasse (Mark Wiersma), Mary Lucasse (David Baker), and Susan Lucasse; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Steve Van Der Weele


“Steve was a consummate man of letters, reading widely and engaging in conversations about ideas whenever possible,” said Don Hettinga, professor of English at Calvin College.

Van Der Weele, 97, who died on Feb. 20, spent his life digging deep into every square inch of literature.

“When we teach literature, we enlarge the world that we can bring into captivity to Jesus Christ ... . The right literature gives students more to be Christian with,” said Van Der Weele, upon receiving the college’s 2007 Faith and Learning Award.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force for more than three years during World War II, Van Der Weele was honorably discharged. Through the GI Bill, he graduated from Calvin in 1949. He went on to receive his master’s degree and PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

He then taught literature at Calvin for 34 years—the second-longest tenure for a Calvin English professor.

He taught 11 different courses in literature and writing, and, with communications professor emeritus Tom Ozinga, laid the initial groundwork for what would become Calvin’s inter- disciplinary journalism minor.

His love for literature and writing didn’t end with his retirement in 1986, and his contribution to his craft continued for decades; according to Hettinga, Van Der Weele wrote book reviews, published a collection of his essays, and gave lectures for church and civic groups.

Van Der Weele was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Viola. He is survived by his children Deborah Kula (Robert, deceased) and Philip Van Der Weele (Joan Snyder), and two grandchildren.