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Uncle Ron says farewell to Dordt

By Julie Ooms

In 1990, Ron Rynders heard about an opening for Director of Admissions at Dordt College and decided to apply. He didn’t get the job—it went to Quentin Van Essen, who still holds the position—but he did take Van Essen’s vacated position as Director of Placement and Planning. Though the title has changed over the years to Director of Career Services, Rynders—or “Uncle Ron,” as he’s known among students—has been counseling and guiding Dordt students toward their vocations for eighteen years.

Ron Rynders

Ron Rynders

Rynders’ present office is a snug, square room complete with a couch and coffee table topped with a cloth runner. From his doorway, one can see most of the offices in Student Services, as well as three walls of shelves lined with books aimed at students who are writing resumes, preparing to take their GREs or LSATs or MCATs, or scoping out possible careers. Rynders has loaned many a Dordt student a book or three from those shelves; they usually remember to give them back on time. There’s also a shelf filled, oddly enough, with board games. Those board games are part of what Rynders calls the “avuncular” spirit, or the spirit of being “like an uncle,” which he hopes he has been able to convey to students during his years here.

“Having come here at forty-five, I was at the age of most students’ parents, or their uncles. I could reach students that way—I could be a ‘safe spot’ for them when they really, really needed it,” Rynders says. “I hope I was able to give students academic hope and that I helped them esteem themselves more.” Rynders has helped guide students through their college years, from their first days at Dordt with his involvement in the peer counseling program during orientation until they’ve graduated.

Students’ difficulties haven’t changed much over the years he’s been at Dordt, Rynders says. “I think technology and expenses and clothing styles and how many piercings kids have change, but the challenges are pretty much constant.” He’s seen a lot of students come into Dordt with the wrong assumptions, and he’s worked to help them discard those assumptions and truly figure out what they’re meant to do upon graduation.

“Left to themselves, many students make the assumption that college is all about freedom and independence, but it’s just like any other epoch of life. You still need discipline.” Many of his “victorious” moments, as he calls them, occurred when he helped students take responsibility for their studies and their lives, and he says he’s very hopeful about today’s students.

“This generation has extra problems,” he says, “like temptations on the internet, raunchy movies, video games—the world has changed. But along with that is a rise in the level of sainthood, I think. We have more spiritually mature students at Dordt than we did before.”

Rynders hopes that, after he’s left Dordt, the college continues to attend to the avuncular. “We have a wonderful foundation,” he says. “We’ve got strong Christian and academic pillars and sturdy walls, and a good roof over our heads. Who will hang the pictures? Where do the curtains come in?” Rynders is passing that task on to someone else.