Dordt College News

Webcast! Deborah Haan to speak at commencement

May 2, 2005

Click here for live webcast Friday at 10:00 AM CST!

View the commencement program (~390 KB PDF)

In keeping with Dordt College’s 50th anniversary celebration, the speaker at this year’s commencement ceremony will be someone who’s been there since before the college began: Deborah Haan, wife of the first president, the late Rev. B.J. Haan.

Rev. Haan and Deborah moved to Sioux Center in 1945 after receiving a call to the pastorate of the First Christian Reformed Church. The Haans served that church until 1959, with B.J. splitting his time between pastoring the church and serving as president of the newly established college for the first few years of its existence. Deborah Haan

Deborah recalls the early years of the college as being busy, but exciting. They moved onto the campus in 1963, when a president’s house was constructed adjacent to the first dormitory. That fall, students used the family garage as a giant walk-in closet for the first few weeks of classes as construction was completed on West Hall. The Haan’s basement became the place for students to “hang out” evenings and weekends, and when occasional water fights broke out, their children enjoyed the show from their bedroom windows.

B.J. and Deborah had six children, who all eventually attended Dordt College: Katie, who became a teacher; Elson, who attended three years and then began a career in construction; Mamie and Deborah, who also became teachers; Bernard John, Jr., who is a pastor; and Enno, who is a school principal. Many of their grandchildren to the present have also attended the family alma mater, with three in this year’s graduating class.

“Our whole lives revolved around the college,” recalls daughter Deb of the college’s early years. “I don’t think I ever questioned it. We were at every travelogue, musical or basketball game.”

They were not alone. The college provided cultural events for the entire community, recalls Katie. She remembers packed houses for events in the gym, which later was remodeled to become the New World Theatre.

A favorite time for the Haan family was the evening meal, when B.J. would always come home to share with the family what had happened on campus that day. Sometimes that included plans for the future of the college.

“During the ’60s there was construction going on every year on campus,” recalls son, Bernie. “Dad would unroll a building blueprint on a bed and say ‘what do you think of this?’”

And daughter Katie can still picture in her mind a family car ride in which each of them was encouraged to think up new names for the college, as the original name (Midwest Christian Junior College) was not appropriate for the four year liberal arts program the college was moving toward. B.J.’s favorite was Dordt (“with two d’s”) a name derived from the great synod of Dordrecht, at which the confessions of the Reformed Calvinistic churches were adopted. He felt the name would offer the opportunity to share Dordt’s perspective.

As Deborah presents her commencement address, she intends to do just that. Haan will share once again the principles that brought Dordt into being and the mission statement which the college continues to stand upon, while challenging graduates to carry on their covenantal kingdom purpose as they leave Dordt to fulfill their mission in the world.

Media Access: Download Word Version