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Long-time friends of Dordt pledge $1 million for campus beautification and scholarships

Helen and Henry Van Klaveren say their gift for landscaping at Dordt College comes out of thankfulness to God for his blessings on their life's work in the nursery business.

Helen and Henry Van Klaveren say their gift for landscaping at Dordt College comes out of thankfulness to God for his blessings on their life's work in the nursery business.

Henry Van Klaveren only attended school through age fourteen, but he says that Dordt College gave him his education in how to become involved with Christian organizations.

That education began under the leadership of former Vice President for College Advancement Lyle Gritters and Development Representative Harold De Wit in the mid 1970s. Gritters and De Wit were raising money for Dordt’s first major fund raising campaign—to fund the chapel, today’s B.J. Haan Auditorium. Van Klaveren was a young businessman known for his commitment to Christian education.

“They challenged us to participate, and we were blessed by doing so,” Van Klaveren says, noting that the first pledge he and his wife, Helen, made was a challenge for them. “But we never missed a meal on account of it,” he says with a chuckle. They have continued to be faithful supporters throughout four decades of Dordt College fund raising campaigns. Over the years Henry also served on the Dordt College Board of Trustees and on the Friends of Dordt Foundation Board.

“Henry has always been a very faithful member of any board on which he served,” says Gritters. Even though he had to travel from California and miss several days of work, he almost never missed a meeting.”

Before visiting with Gritters and De Wit, the Van Klaverens knew little more about Dordt College than that it was an institution that advertised in The Banner and a cause that appeared on their annual Thanksgiving envelopes in church. Over the years they came to appreciate Dordt College for the firm foundation upon which it was built and grew, for the quality people connected with it, and for the friends they developed as a result of it.

“We give to many causes, but Dordt College is one of the most important ones,” says Van Klaveren today.

Born in the Netherlands, Van Klaveren’s father put him to work at age fourteen in the family nursery business. In 1950 he immigrated to California. He worked as a gardener and served two years in the United States Army. Within six years of immigrating, Henry and Helen began their own nursery business.

“It’s been growing ever since,” Van Klaveren says. He is now retired, and the business is run by his sons, but landscaping remains close to his heart. He recently combined his love for Dordt College and his love of growing things by making a $1 million gift to the college to be put primarily toward campus landscaping. The impact of the gift will be seen immediately as new landscaping and signage replaces the old city water treatment plant at the northwest corner of campus. It will also help create a new main entrance to campus. The Van Klaverens’ gift will also fund scholarships for students interested in youth ministry and will endow ongoing landscape improvements.

“In the past organizations often didn’t make landscaping a priority in their building plans,” Van Klaveren told Vice President for Advancement John Baas. He’s pleased that the gift will help the college implement landscaping portions of the campus master plan.

When thanked for his gift, Van Klaveren quickly quotes Psalm 115:1: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” He emphasizes that the gift is given out of thanksgiving for God’s blessings and out of appreciation for how Dordt College faithfully educates young people to live and work as citizens of Christ’s kingdom.

“I think it is good for people to support Dordt College. More support makes it possible for the college to expand, offer an even better education, and hire the best staff and faculty,” he says. He hopes more people will join him in that effort.