Dordt library releases oral history collection

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B.J. Haan featured in recordings sharing Dordt history

President B.J. Haan

The Dordt University Archives is now home to an oral history collection featuring stories from Dordt’s first president, B.J. Haan. These stories were originally recorded by KDCR in the 1980s on cassette tapes, and they tell of Dordt’s early history, including its relationships with Sioux Center and the local Christian day schools.

“We realized we had something valuable on our hands when the tapes were first discovered in a file drawer,” says Ingrid Mulder, Dordt’s archives coordinator.

A grant provided by the Generations Community Endowment Fund of the Sioux Center Community Foundation allowed for the digitization and preservation of these tapes.

“Oral histories are important because they tend to disappear,” says Dave Netz, alumnus and former Dordt chief information officer. “B.J. Haan was always inspirational and positive. Many farmers were excited about Dordt College as a concept because of Haan.”

“It’s important for people to know that much of Dordt’s success is due to the support of Sioux Center community leaders,” says Mulder. “Mayor Maurice Te Paske and B.J. Haan had a great relationship and worked on a number of city projects that benefited the town and the college.”

Mulder listened to the tapes, summarized their content, noted key passages, and worked with a vendor that specializes in digitization, to make the tapes available. The ten stories can be found at https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/oral_history_haan/.

“One of the things I enjoyed the most about this project was hearing about the way the early founders moved forward in faith and trust,” says Mulder. “They had no idea if the junior college would work and they didn’t have the hindsight that we have today – how through prayer, hard work, and cooperation the college became a reality.”

The collection is part of a larger digital archive that hosts foundational documents and images of Dordt’s presidents. The Dordt University Archives also have a physical collection of photos, publications such as The Voice, and other items documenting Dordt’s history. The Hulst Library is home to the archive collections.

“Digitizing is expensive and we knew that we would have to fund the project through an outside source,” says Mulder. “The Sioux Center Community Foundation generously supported us, and we are so thankful.”

As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Located in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dordt is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, Forbes.com, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.