Recently at an alumni gathering in Sunnyside, Washington, I met Hester Verburg. She was one of the 35 original students who began their studies at Midwest Christian Junior College in Sioux Center, Iowa, on September 14, 1955.
Here is an entry from the September 1955 board meeting, which was just a week after school began:
Article 15. Reverend Van Schouwen reported on school activities. The professors are applying themselves diligently to their labor, and fully conscious of the many responsibilities resting upon them, and a spirit of good will and unity is evident. We have an enrollment of 35 students, 13 male students, and 22 are women.
At a meeting in October 1955, there was this entry:
Article 21. Because there is much dissatisfaction with the name of our school, a motion was made and carried to appoint the Educational Committee to study this matter and report to the board.
By January 1955’s meeting of the board, we find this:
Article 15. Reverend Van Schouwen presented the recommendation of the executive board to change the name of the school from Midwest Christian Junior College to Dordt College. A motion carried to adopt this recommendation.
I give thanks to God for Hester and her classmates taking a chance on a new college so many years ago! Hearing from Hester about the early days of Dordt and reading the board minutes with these consequential decisions made me reflect on Hebrews 11-12 and “the great cloud of witnesses” from Noah, to Moses, to Abraham and Sarah, to Joseph who all went before. It also brought to mind one of my favorite Q&A’s of the Heidelberg Catechism (#54):
Q: What do you believe concerning the “Holy Catholic Church”?
A: I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word out of the entire human race from the beginning of the world to its end gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.
Over the past 12 years as president, I continually hear the word “community” from alumni and students describing what makes Dordt distinctive and special. What a joy and confidence that this sense of community has its roots in Scripture and is a part of the Holy Catholic Church. Community here is deeper and richer than simply a group of friendly people; we’re bound together by a common Savior and held together by the work of the Holy Spirit.
This year, Dordt’s community includes 1,911 students which, interestingly, was approximately the population of the entire town of Sioux Center when Dordt began in 1955. Last May, we sent out another 437 graduates from Dordt. And although they no longer live in this community, they remain living members of that wider, and broader, and deeper community of believers, chosen for eternal life and united in one true faith.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Dr. Erik Hoekstra, Dordt University president