Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Michelle (Bootsma) Bekkering ('98) Political Science
Bekkering is an Iowa native who studied at Dordt from 1994 to 1998 and graduated with a major in political science. She is currently director of governance for the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington, D.C. The IRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to advancing freedom and democracy.
In her position, Bekkering oversees the institute’s global democratic governance programs designed to help governments implement transparent and accountable practices and promote citizen engagement. Bekkering’s advocacy efforts on behalf of women’s political empowerment were rewarded when Bekkering was named a 2013 Top Global Woman by the global affairs magazine Diplomatic Courier.
"I see my calling as a Christian in the field of politics and international relations is to act as God’s servant and to strive to bring mercy to the needy and justice to the oppressed. Through my work with marginalized communities (women primarily), I strive to advocate for legislation that offers them protection from abuse and discrimination."
Mike Adams ('94) Associate of Arts, General Studies
Mike of Brandon, South Dakota, is the owner and CEO of Adams Thermal Systems in Canton. The company began 10 years ago and now employs more than 1,000 people.
Mike says the company is “committed to a biblically informed, Christian perspective on business, economics, technology, and all of life.” According to the mission of Adams Thermal Systems, the business serves God and society while working “to confront and overcome all forms of human poverty in our world.”
Because he and his family believe that faith and work cannot be separate, he tries to structure his life to reflect “the truth of God’s Word and to be ‘salt and light’ to those around us.” Thus, a percentage of the company’s sales support 25 ministries including local, national, and international ministries.
Merl Alons ('59) Engineering
Merl of Sun City, Arizona, has devoted his life to the work of and promotion of Christian education.
“Christian education is a personal response to my covenant with God,” said Merl. “Out of this comes a belief that my children, as I, must learn to give God the glory in all of life and use all they have and are in service to his kingdom.”
Since his graduation, Merl has served as teacher, principal, superintendent, and administrator at several institutions including Rock Valley Christian School, Pella Christian Grade School, Sioux Center Christian School, Central Valley Christian School (California), Sheboygan County Christian High School (Wisconsin), and Manitowoc Christian School (Wisconsin). He has worked to advance the rights of Christian schools by serving on a number of non-public school boards and associations. He also served as a member of Dordt’s Alumni Council.
James C. Schaap ('70) English
James taught English at Dordt College for 37 years before retiring at the conclusion of the 2011-12 academic year.
“I am increasingly less interested in having students know about iambic pentameter than to learn wisdom,” he said at the end of his teaching career. “I want them to understand that studying literature is not just school work, it’s about life.”
In addition to his teaching career, which also included teaching in high school and coaching basketball, he is the author of 26 books including Romey’s Place, In the Silence There Are Ghosts, and most recently Up the Hill.
His books range from novels to devotionals to commissioned works. Several have been published in German, Dutch, French, or Korean. His works have received awards from Christianity Today, Best Christian Writing, Evangelical Press Association, Associated Church Press, as well as the Christy Award.
Harry Fernhout (’70) Philosophy
Harry Fernhout of Ontario, Canada, graduated in 1970 and has worked in Christian higher education ever since. Beginning in 2005, Fernhout was the president of The King’s University College in Edmonton, Alberta. Before that, he was president of the Institute for Christian Studies, a graduate school in Toronto.
Since retiring in June, Fernhout has been working with his hands—something he says he was seldom able to do during his presidencies—and is now evaluating how he can continue to use his experience serving Christian higher education.
Tammy Walhof (’86) Secondary Education
Tammy Walhof of Minneapolis, Minnesota, graduated in 1986 and was a social justice and political activist even as a student. She earned a master’s degree in public policy analysis and administration from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Walhof has worked for Christian Reformed World Relief (now World Renew) and is now the senior organizer for Bread for the World in several states in the Upper Midwest.
In her work, she strives to help alleviate hunger and poverty, two conditions that she says do not match God’s vision for his world. Of Dordt College, she says, “Dordt’s vision of encouraging students to think, question, and prepare for Christ’s calling in God’s big world helped to prepare me for my lifelong passions and work in some very special ways.”
Katie Haan (’65) Elementary Education
Katie received her bachelor of arts from Dordt College in elementary education in 1965. She actually graduated twice from Dordt; she received her associate of arts degree in 1962. She spent 45 years of service as an educator, most of them at Sioux Center Christian School. She was a Fulbright recipient to India. She has mentored more than 30 student teachers and has served in many ways for Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra.
Gail Jansen (’74) History
Gail received her bachelor of arts in history in 1974. Gail also has a law degree from the University of Arizona Law School. She served as the county and city prosecutor in Tucson, Arizona, from 1977 to 1980. She has been in private practice since 1980 with a focus on family law, probate, and adoption. She has been a member of the Collaborative Law Group of Southern Arizona and the Christian Legal Society. She has served terms on the Center for Public Justice board in the ’80s, 90s, and 2000s. She has also served on the board of New Hope Christian Academy and on the board of the CRCNA. She is also a past member and president of the Dordt College Board of Trustees.
Mark Link (’82) Chemistry
Mark received his bachelor of arts in chemistry in 1982. Mark is an electrophysiologist at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. He installs pace makers and he has discovered answers regarding the sudden death of children when playing baseball or other sports. Mark speaks at heart conferences nationally and internationally and has helped discover a bit more of how God has created us.
Marlys (De Witt) Popma (’78) Health Physical Education and Recreation
Marlys received her bachelor of arts from Dordt College in HPER-PE and is a senior projects director at Campaign Headquarters in Brooklyn, Iowa. The Des Moines Register newspaper featured Marlys as one of the 50 top individuals in Iowa who can make or break a GOP Presidential candidate. Marlys is among Iowa’s most experienced and respected social conservative organizers. She has commanded top positions in Iowa Right to Life, the state GOP, and many Iowa campaigns since 1996.
The person who nominated her said, “Marlys has done amazing and passionate work in many areas, is a terrific speaker, and, above all, has a deep love for God and the work he has called her to do.”
James Verbrugge (’60)
James received his A.A. degree from Dordt College in 1960 when it was a two-year college. He is emeritus professor of finance at Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, serving as professor of finance from 1978 to 2002 and chairman of the Department of Banking and Finance at Terry College from 1977 to 2001. He also held the Georgia Bankers Association Chair of Banking from 1992 to 2002. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Kentucky.
An expert on the banking industry, James has testified on the modernization of the Federal Home Loan Banking system before the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. His research on financial markets and institutions, banking, and bank privatization has been widely published, and his teaching interests include venture capital, management of financial institutions, entrepreneurial finance, and money and capital markets. James is well-respected in his field and is active in consulting work. He serves on many corporate boards and has been involved in several startup companies that have done well. He also serves on the Advisory Committee of the NFL Players Association Financial Programs and Advisor Administration.
John A. Rozeboom (’62)
John was a preseminary student and received his A.A. degree from Dordt College when it was a two-year college. He went on to Calvin College, Calvin Seminary, and Fuller Seminary after graduating from Dordt College. Beginning in 1969, Rozeboom was a new-church developer in Riverside, California. In 1976, he accepted the regional home missionary (regional director) position for the Western United States for Christian Reformed Home Missions.
Then in 1986, John was appointed to the position of executive director for Christian Reformed Home Missions, from which he retired in December 2008. He is still busy in retirement. As John told The Voice when reflecting on his career and retirement, “Jesus posed the question recorded in Luke 18, concluding his teaching on persistent intercessory prayer, ‘When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ Linda (John’s wife) and I both want to be around ministry that contributes to answering Jesus’ question with a resounding ‘Yes!’”
Rev. David De Ridder ('71) English
David is the long-time pastor of discipleship at the Third Christian Reformed Church in Denver, Colorado. He has also spent time in ministry in churches in Visalia and Bellflower, California. While his job description has changed over the years, his primary responsibilities include leading the youth programs of the church, serving as a liaison with the many missionaries that the church supports or has supported, leading two trips (adult and youth groups) annually to support missions in northern Mexico, serving as an ambassador for the prayer ministry, and leading several Bible studies. The person who nominated David says, “The professionalism and care with which Dave performs his duties are truly reflective of his understanding of calling, task, and culture. To watch Dave is to see what a Dordt College alumnus should try to emulate in one’s own profession."
Dr. Craig Stockmeier (’77) Biology
Craig is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He researches brain disorders using some of the latest biological technology (Case Western Reserve) and serves on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Medical Research Council. He directs and is the Core Leader for the CPN Human Brain Collection Core. Craig has extensive experience in the development and management of the collection, which is one of the leading postmortem human brain collections in the country devoted specifically to psychiatric neuroscience. The Human Brain Collection was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health from 1989 through 2007 and funded by the National Center for Research Resources from 2007 through 2012.
Stan and Alice (Veluw) Weber (’77) Psychology (Stan); (’80) Elementary Education (Alice)
Stan is the director of Salama Urban Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee, while Alice (Veluw) was the long-time director of Children’s Ministry at Salama Urban Ministries. Salama Urban Ministries is a community-based, church-sponsored organization that develops and nurtures Christian values and discipleship through education, small groups, and performance opportunities. Stan is a quiet servant providing leadership to a number of church and community-based ministries. Salama is an outreach of Christ Presbyterian church, a white upper-class church in Nashville. Stan challenged them to reach out to the inner city. Salama is the “gateway” ministry. Stan was nominated to Leadership Nashville, a “who’s who” of community leaders, and is a mentor to local ministries and businesses.
Alice was the director of Salama’s programs and wrote curriculum for their educational programs. These are a prototype for many smaller churches carrying out similar ministries and on mission fields. Educational programs include summer enrichment programs that attract excellent teachers. The programs are noted by outside funding sources as academically rigorous – and Christian. Stan and Alice live in the community they serve. An African-American pastor commented, "I’ve been watching Stan for 20 years – now I believe he’s real.”
Ronald Blankespoor (’68) Chemistry
Ronald is the chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has been there since 1977. He has also been a visiting professor at the Universities of Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Paris. Ron was the 2005-06 recipient of the Calvin College Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching, which is an award to honor outstanding teaching and service to the college. He also was the 1977 recipient of Wake Forest University's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Kevin De Vries (’86) Psychology
Kevin is the president of Exxel Pacific, one of the largest private construction companies in Washington. Northwest Business Monthly has recognized the company as one of the most successful and best run companies in western Washington. Kevin has demonstrated excellence in living out his Reformed worldview by conducting the company business with integrity and treating employees with a family first focus. He also has been very involved in his church and local Christian schools. Kevin is committed to doing business differently as he helped build the company from the ground up.
Christian Teeuwsen (’80) Music
Christian is an associate professor of music at Redeemer University. Chris is an internationally known organist and has distinguished himself with his outstanding performances and CDs.
Morris Blankespoor (’66) English
Morris has dedicated his life to the enterprise of Christian education and has given most of his career to Pella Christian High School (PCHS), where he has served for over 40 years. Morris taught at Western Christian High School for four years and then at Oskaloosa Christian Grade School for two years before moving to Pella Christian High School. He taught high school English for 35 years at PCHS and retired from teaching following the 2004-05 school year. For the past two-and-a-half years Morris has served as the development coordinator for a $20 million "Upon the Rock Campaign," a financial endeavor to raise funds for a new campus.
Mark Vogelzang (’79) English
Mark is president and general manager of Vermont Public Radio. This is a five-station network based in Burlington, Vermont. As chief executive for the only NPR station serving the citizens of Vermont and surrounding regions, Mark is responsible for an operation with over 21,000 contributing members and 300 business underwriters. Mark was named Public Radio’s General Manager of the Year in July of 2002, served as president of Eastern Public Radio from 1997 to 1999, and is a member of the National Public Radio Board.
Ida Kaastra Mutoigo (’82) Agriculture
Ida is the director of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee-Canada. She has a B.A. in agriculture and biology from Dordt College and a B.S. in crop science from the University of Guelph. She has spent nine years in Uganda as a planning and development advisor and then as Uganda field director for the CRWRC. Ida also spent five years as the Christian Reformed Church's ServiceLink coordinator in Ontario, Canada, before returning to Africa.
Dr. Gregg VandeKieft (’83) Biology
Gregg is a faculty physician in the Family Medicine Residency Program and the medical director for hospice and palliative care at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington. He is also a clinical associate professor of family medicine at the University of Washington.
Distinguished Alumni Series suspended for Jubilee Year
Julia Stronks (’82) Political Science
Julia is an associate professor of history/political & international studies at Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington. She is the author of Law, Religion, and Public Policy: A Commentary on First Amendment Jurisprudence.
Randall Kroll (’80) Business Administration
Randy is a certified public accountant and the president of Wilkerson, Guthmann, and Johnson, an accounting firm in the Twin Cities. He specializes in working with not-for-profit organizations to bring hope to individuals and organizations by the way he works with them.
Lloyd and Vicki (Veenstra) Vander Kwaak (’78) Social Service (Lloyd); Psychology (Vicki)
Lloyd is the president and chief executive officer of Childserve and organization providing services for children and families with special needs. Vicki is a medical social worker and the bereavement coordinator Mercy Hospice. The Vander Kwaaks live in Johnston, Iowa.
Judy (Arends) Brueggeman (’72) Elementary Education
Judy is the principal and curriculum director at Harris-Lake Park Community School. She was named State of Iowa Elementary Principal of the Year and National Distinguished Principal in 1993. In 1998, she and her school earned a First in the Nation (FINE) Award in student achievement in reading with technology, and in the same year she earned the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
David Mulder (’79) Biology
David is a doctor of osteopathy. He served as chief of staff and medical officer at the Indian Health Service Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
Brian Fikkert (’86) Mathematics
Brian is an associate professor of economics at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He is also the executive director of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development.
Valerie (Haarsma) Green (’85) Business Administration
Valerie served two terms with the English Language Institute in China as a tent-making missionary and English language teacher. While traveling in China Valerie was involved in a near-fatal bus accident that affirmed her faith in a caring God who hears and answers prayer. She continued to pursue international and cross-cultural outreach during a term with CRWRC in Bangladesh. Since returning to the United States in 1996, Valerie has completed a masters degree in theology and is currently the manager of resident life at the University of Utah.
Randall Palmer (’78) Social Science
Randy is the chief political correspondent for Reuters in Canada. Previous assignments included Beirut (the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks), Geneva (Iran-Iraq peace talks, US-Soviet arms negotiations, environmental conferences, and refugee issues), and Bahrain (OPEC conferences and oil news).
Rev. Ray Vander Laan (’73) Psychology
Ray teaches Bible at Holland Christian High School in Holland, Michigan. He is the author of video series, That the World May Know made available and popular through Focus on the Family. He continues to lead frequent educational tour groups to the Holy Land.
Brent Assink (’77) Business Administration and Music
Brent is the executive director of San Francisco Symphony. Prior to this appointment in 1997 he served terms as the President of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the general manager of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
Karen Helder (’74) Psychology
Karen is currently the director of operations for Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has also served as the director of professional services at Wedgwood Acres Christian Youth Homes in Michigan.
Valerie McWilliams (’79) History
Valerie currently serves as the managing attorney for the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation in Champaign, Illinois, an agency dedicated to providing legal services for persons who cannot afford a private attorney.
Harvey Blankespoor (’60) General Studies
Harvey was named the 1991 CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) Professor of the Year during his long and successful teaching career at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. His teaching (biology) and research in parasitology have helped hundreds of students as well as persons around the world who suffer the effects of parasite-caused diseases or reactions.