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Awarding scholarships is the best part of the job

Five members of the Alumni Council are completing their terms on the council. In their parting comments they share some of the highlights of their service. All express appreciation for Dordt’s continuing commitment to the principles upon which the college was founded.

Sylvan Gerritsma
“It’s the Perspective,” says the headline on one of Dordt’s recent promotional brochures. It’s that Reformed perspective that still excites me about Dordt thirty-seven years after graduation. The opportunity to serve on the Alumni Council enhanced that appreciation. Each meeting, and the activities between meetings, impressed on me that the implication of Christian commitment is not merely sentimental heritage at Dordt. Rather, it is living, growing, and developing in academics, campus community life, co-curricular activities, and development.

Helen Bonnema
“The campus has seen some amazing changes since I was a student in the '60s. However, the commitment to educating students to live lives of service to God has remained the same, with many more programs and majors in areas to serve Him.”

Nearly all council members find selecting alumni scholarship recipients to be the most rewarding and meaningful part of the Alumni Council. Members found it inspiring to read the essays of students who applied for alumni scholarships, telling of how God has been directing their lives.

Rhonda Vogelzang:
“My favorite task was nominating and then voting on the Alumni Scholarship winners each year.”

Sylvan Gerritsma (who excused himself from the process this year)
“It’s an annual highlight for alumni council members to read these applications. They reveal solid Christian perspective and beautiful commitment to serving Christ and others in His creation. The least satisfying aspect of choosing recipients is that we can award only a few of the deserving students."

“The exciting news is that there are plans to dramatically increase the number of Alumni Scholarships—including plans to award scholarships to incoming freshmen from each of our eight districts.”

As Helen, Rhonda, and Sylvan complete their service, they challenge fellow alumni to “continue to support Dordt with our prayers and contributions so we can encourage future generations,” as Helen says, and challenge Dordt, in Rhonda’s words, to “continue to raise the bar academically and instill in students the burning desire to be lights in a dark world by daring to go into the world equipped with the Word and the Spirit.”

Alumni Scholarship Recipients

Scott Beeman is from West Des Moines, Iowa. A business administration major and chemistry minor, Scott intends to be a veterinarian.

Sara Gerritsma is from St. Catharines, Ontario. A political studies major, Sara is interested in international relations and working for justice in politics and law. She plans to go to law school following graduation.

Amy Nugteren is from Pella, Iowa. With history and political studies majors, Amy plans to pursue graduate work relating to the intersection of religion and politics, hoping eventually to be a professor. (Amy's essay is below.)



Junior feels called to work for structural change in society

By Amy Nugteren

I have been surrounded by the all-encompassing embrace of Reformed theology since my very first breath. I began my journey in Pella, Iowa, and spent the majority of my pre-collegiate years there, with only a small sojourn in Sioux Center while my father, Randy Nugteren, completed his degree at Dordt College. My mother, Brenda (De Boer) Nugteren, also attended Dordt College, and both my parents carried with them a heritage that stressed the value of Christian day-school education. My early years were spent at Pella Christian Grade School, where my teachers always encouraged me to fulfill my true academic potential; their efforts showed fruit when I won the Iowa State Geography Bee in 1997, becoming the first (and to date only) girl to do so and earning the chance to participate in the national competition in Washington, D.C. After eighth grade graduation I went on to grace the halls of Pella Christian High School, where the faculty and staff stressed the importance of living out one’s Christian faith twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. More particularly, my senior Bible teacher facilitated my involvement in the kinds of ethical and theological debates that characterize collegiate academics at a Christian institution. All of this learning was reinforced in my attendance at Calvary Christian Reformed Church, the church where I made profession of faith and that I still consider my home congregation.

My decision to attend Dordt College represented my conscious acceptance of the faith and worldview that had characterized my younger years. I wanted a college that would affirm my passion for politics and embrace the opportunity to live that out in a distinctly Christian way, and everything about Dordt seemed to point me in that direction. I soon discovered that an interest in history offered me a richer understanding of politics, and I therefore chose to double major in political studies and history. The education I receive in each new semester of classes has served to constantly reaffirm my commitment to the Reformed worldview and my love of Dordt College.

For me the most compelling aspect of Calvinist theology remains its comprehensive structural claims. It is often tempting for Christians to ignore the injustices of this world by claiming a heaven-oriented theology that then negates any Christian political responsibility in this corrupt earthly realm. However, at Dordt College my professors have repeatedly emphasized that Christ’s sovereign claims extend past Sunday worship into the nitty-gritty of daily life—including politics. Ameliorating the suffering of the homeless means not only donating time and money to a soup kitchen but also engaging in a concentrated political effort to eliminate root economic practices that contribute to unemployment and destitution. I find myself most profoundly affected by the work of Abraham Kuyper and his delineation of the doctrine of sphere sovereignty. By classifying politics as a fundamental aspect of creational order, Kuyper legitimates Christian involvement in politics without condoning unjust political systems; rather, he prompts Christians to develop an alternative vision of society constructed on a solid foundation of biblical principles. In this same manner, Reformed theology interprets history through an overarching framework of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, clarifying the purpose and direction of historical development and engendering a sense of contemporary relevance. If “the chief end of man…is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,”1 then Christians have an equally urgent responsibility to engage in shaping history.

Spending a semester off-campus at the American Studies Program in Washington, D.C., gave me an opportunity for cultural engagement that contributed to the further crystallization of my own reasons for embracing a Calvinist worldview. Many of the students I met there had no conception of the potential impact of the imperative structural claims of Christianity on political life. I specifically remember one conversation with a fellow classmate in which I contended that the doctrine of common grace offers Christians a platform from which to lovingly engage non-Christians on a variety of issues. He had never heard of describing God’s sustaining presence in this manner and commented that it was indeed a beautiful way of understanding God’s relationship with creation. Reformed theology encourages Christians to adopt a transformed vision of political life that is radically biblical in scope and to work tirelessly for its implementation, despite the current structural impediments that are so readily apparent in our nation’s Capitol and worldwide.

In a year and a half I will, Lord willing, be graduating from Dordt College, and I passionately hope that the worldview I have developed here will continue to guide me throughout the rest of my life. I hope to pursue graduate work relating to the positive intersection of religion and politics, especially the latent possibilities for improving international cooperation with such a conceptual framework. I would like to employ this knowledge within the burgeoning field of conflict resolution, with the intent of someday entering the world of academia as a professor; if possible, I would like to return to Dordt College in this capacity. However, if I am led elsewhere, I intend to continue to advocate the comprehensive claims of the Reformed worldview, especially in the realm of politics. If I am blessed with a family of my own, I want my children to be able to immerse themselves in the same kind of educational and religious experience that has had such an impact on my own life. As President Zylstra noted in his GIFT address on Sunday, February 13, Dordt’s Reformed emphasis produces students with the passions and gifts necessary to change the world, and I believe that it can also amplify the bold self-confidence, nourished by a spirit of biblical revelation, that will be the final impetus for the implementation of the radical reformational claims of the Calvinist faith.

1 “Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1,” Westminster Shorter Catechism Project homepage, 14 August, 2003, http://www.shortercatechism.com/resources/wsc (accessed 14 February, 2005).