Since 1907, four generations of the Elenbaas family have made their professions in the energy industry. Chemical engineer Jack Elenbaas (1923–2012) graduated from the University of Michigan, but as a father and grandfather he became committed to Christian education and missions. During the 1960s and ’70s he headed an annual fundraising telethon in the Detroit area, organizing a large group of volunteers to spend an evening calling people who had connections to Calvin. Each person on Elenbaas’ list received a personal call asking for a pledge or donation to the university. In 1973, Elenbaas received the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Service Award. 

According to son Doug, his dad “was always an outstanding student, very committed to education, and particularly Christian education and ministry. He was very much into making sure his children were taking care of their studies.” Doug and his three siblings, Judy, Marvin, and Steven, each graduated from Calvin, as did seven of Elenbaas’ 11 grandchildren. 

After Elenbaas and his wife, Eleanor (1923–2023), put four children through Christian education, they had an even deeper appreciation for the financial commitment it requires. In their retirement, they established the Jack and Eleanor Elenbaas Family Scholar- ships for third- and fourth-year Calvin engineering students. 

“My dad was an expert in his field and always had a good job,” Doug says. “In his retirement, his dedication to oil and gas exploration resulted in the financial resources to establish endowed scholarships. Later, other family members started making donations, too.” Though the scholarships at first focused on engineering students, as family members began contributing to the endowment, that scope expanded. 

Doug’s oldest brother, Marvin, was a banker. When he passed away of ALS in 2018, the family added scholarships for both accounting and nursing majors. “Several Calvin nursing students provided in-home care for my brother. They were with him around the clock. So when he died and part of his estate went into the endowment, we expand- ed our scholarships to include nursing students as well,” Doug says. This year, 11 scholarships of 5,000 dollars each were awarded to engineering, nursing, accounting, and pre-seminary students at Calvin University. 

In October, the Elenbaas family hosted its annual banquet at the Prince Center to honor this year’s recipients. The private event gives family members an opportunity to meet and get to know their scholarship recipients. Eleanor, who passed away in January, attended every banquet up until last year. “My mom came all the way through the age of 99,” Doug says. “Hosting our own dinner made it a more intimate affair, and she was able to talk with the students in a peaceful setting. They really enjoyed talking to her, too.” 

Doug Elenbaas says the endowed scholarship program has been a source of family connection and a way to continue his parents’ legacy of commitment to Christian education and ministry. “The value of education, the value of being in a profession, these are things deeply valued in the Elenbaas family.”