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Dordt College News

German blacksmith creates lasting tribute to Dordt College

August 26, 2004

Eberhard Mueller doesn’t speak English, but he found a way to say thank-you. A German blacksmith forced into early retirement by cancer, Eberhard was one of the proud parents in the audience at Dordt College’s May commencement ceremony. Though he didn’t understand a word that was being said, he knew that his daughter, Ulrike (Rikki), had been received with open arms and hearts at Dordt College, and he was searching for a way to say thank-you.

Glancing down at his program, Mueller noted the Dordt College seal, and a plan was born. After the ceremony, he contacted the college’s public relations department and was able to get a more detailed copy of the college’s seal. Upon his return to Werneuchen, Germany (a little town just outside of Berlin), Eberhard began creating a hammered copper replica to present to those who had made Rikki’s American education possible. Seal

A formal presentation of the large copper medallion was made to the college August 19, with Rikki offering the gift to President Carl Zylstra and the Executive Committee of the college’s board of trustees. Rikki translated a letter from her father into English and read it to the group:

“Our daughter Ulrike was accepted to be an exchange student in Iowa during her senior year of high school and later returned to Iowa to study at Dordt College between the years of 2001 and 2004. Before any of this happened, we didn’t know anyone from Iowa or from the rest of the United States.

“From the beginning of her studies, our daughter was welcomed by very friendly people. With time, more and more people supported her and gave her love and affection. We don’t take any of this for granted, and we are very proud to have found such good friends. Strangers became friends and I want to say thank-you in the form of Dordt’s emblem that I hammered into copper. It is a symbolic thank-you to all who have been part of this journey. I enjoyed working on this piece hoping that the recipients will also enjoy it.”

Rikki said the hammered copper piece was created with only a chisel and hammer on a material which “if you make a mistake, you can’t erase it.” She added that her father devoted about three weeks to the project. As a blacksmith, his job had been to make metal gates, fences, doors, etc., but since recovering from cancer, his workshop has been a creative outlet for more creative artwork, including weather vanes. This past year he did several copper pieces, mainly focusing on impressions and themes from Cervante’s “Don Quixote” whom he became interested in after Rikki spent a semester in Spain.

Another piece, M.C. Escher’s “Sky and Water I” was translated into copper by Eberhard and given to a family in Le Mars (Steve and Kathy Ver Mulm) who were Rikki’s host family during her senior year of high school as an exchange student at Unity Christian High School in Orange City.

After high school graduation, Rikki returned to Germany for two years to finish her university prep school before starting college at Dordt in the fall of 2001.

“I first visited Dordt on a campus visit day during my time as an exchange student, and really liked their education program,” said Mueller. “I was intrigued by the fact that I could finish my studies within three years, compared to the six or more years it would have taken me in Germany. I also enjoyed the Christian education I received at Unity, and wanted to be part of that kind of community again.”

Mueller graduated this spring with a degree in Secondary Education for Spanish and ESL, and has been hired to teach Spanish I at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, SD. “I am excited for what the Lord has in store for me in the year ahead, and am sure that my experiences at Dordt will be a good foundation to tackle whatever might come my way,” commented Rikki. She added that during all her studies and adventures abroad, her parents have been amazed at how welcoming and friendly people have treated her and them. Other family members include her mother, Christa, who runs a bed and breakfast; two older sisters and a younger brother.

“I am very grateful and happy to have been given a chance to live and study here in the States. Going to Dordt has been a very busy time, but also a time of lots of growth for me. I hope that the friendships I’ve made will last, no matter where I might end up someday.”

Dordt College annually enrolls approximately 1,300 students from about 25 states in the U.S., six Canadian provinces, and over a dozen foreign countries.

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