Archived Voice Articles
By Lynn Otto ('84)
In 1955, Harold Mulder enrolled in the brand new Midwest Christian Junior College, now Dordt College, two days after classes began. He hadn’t planned to go to college at all, but the price of cattle changed his mind. “I went with my dad to sell some cattle in Sioux City,” recalls Mulder. “Prices were so bad that, on the way home from the auction barn, I told him that I’d better find another way to make a living.” Mulder enrolled in the new college and started classes the next day, with the plan of becoming an elementary school teacher.
“The college started because there was a great need for teachers in Christian schools,” remembers Mulder. “I was interested in elementary education, and the school was close to home. My older brother was going to Calvin College, but my parents couldn’t afford to send two of us there at the same time. They thought the new college was a good idea and were supportive of it, but they were a bit worried that, since it was so small and young, it might not provide a challenging enough education.” Today Mulder says that their fears were not realized at all. “I got a very good education there and had no trouble going on to other schools later.”
One of ten children, Mulder says his parents were the strongest influence in his life. “They encouraged all of us to study to learn how to serve God better.” Church and school reinforced what he learned from his parents, and Dordt College “carried that on into the next level of education,” says Mulder.
While earning his two-year degree from Dordt, Mulder lived at home, milking forty cows before class every morning and milking them again every evening after classes. There were no dorms then, so local students lived at home, while those who came from a distance boarded in town. Even so, “there was a good social climate at the college,” says Mulder, who served on the Student Council. Mulder remembers the efforts that the council made to ensure that the school provided a true college experience.
“Many of us came from Western Christian High School, and some of the staff members were also from Western. We wanted to be sure we weren’t treated like high schoolers,” he says.
The council had plenty to do. “We picked the school colors and the name 'Defenders.' We started clubs, planned banquets, and launched and named the yearbook. The Signet was issued for the first time in 1957.”
So why did the council pick black and white? “Well, Calvin had maroon and gold, and Western had maroon and white, and other local schools had the blues,” Mulder explains. “We thought black and white would look better than bright orange.”
Black and white still clothe the Defenders, but other things have changed with the times. Mulder remembers trying to sign up for the elementary education methods class, but not being allowed to take it because the class was for female students only. “I eventually took the class elsewhere,” says Mulder. “Things were different then.”
He remembers that all of the students were in the choir the first year. There were no try-outs. “There was one guy who told Dr. Van Til, our director, that he couldn’t sing and didn’t like to sing. But Van Til said, ‘You stand up there and act like it, and you can carry the risers.’ It was a good choir though,” says Mulder. Choir was optional the second year, but “most of us stayed with it.”
The new school’s small size meant that “there was a tremendous opportunity for anyone to move into a leadership position,” recalls Mulder. Though he describes himself as being on the shy side, he was elected to the Student Council his first year and in his second year became vice-president of his class as well as president of the Student Council. “I learned I could be a leader,” he says. That discovery proved useful as he later moved into school administration. Even in retirement, Mulder is a leader. He and his wife, Marlyce, volunteer two to three sessions a year as on-site managers with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s Disaster Relief Services. Most recently they’ve worked on Hurricane Katrina relief projects.
After Mulder graduated from Dordt with his A.A. degree, he taught for two years in the Hawarden and Rock Valley Christian schools. He married Marlyce Van Dyke from Leota, Minnesota, in 1959 and headed to Calvin College to earn his B.A., graduating in 1961. He received his Master’s in Elementary Administration from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1971.
During his career, Mulder taught or served as administrator in eight more Christian schools, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Dearborn, Michigan; Silver Springs, Maryland; Waupun, Wisconsin; Walnut Creek, California; and Miami and Orlando, Florida. Having benefited from Dordt’s commitment to provide an excellent education even from its small beginning, Mulder was determined to follow its example. His goal has been “to provide the best possible Christian education for all of God’s children, even in the smallest schools.” Whether he earned more working in Christian education than he would have on the farm is debatable, but Mulder has no regrets. He says, “It’s been a challenging and satisfying career.”
From 1993 to 2002, Mulder worked as an educational sales consultant for Pearson Learning Group, a curriculum company. When he retired from school administration in 2004, he was asked to return to Pearson as a part-time consultant, which he’s still doing today, mainly providing in-service product education for teachers.
He and Marlyce have worked side by side throughout most of his career. Also a teacher, Marlyce assisted in music education and school library work as well. They now live in Winter Park, Florida, and enjoy gardening, going to concerts, and traveling, especially to visit their four children, eight grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. They return to Sioux Center about once a year to see family, so Mulder has kept an eye on the college that started him on his teaching career.