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Dr. Thomas B. Hoeksema
Retirement Tribute

 
 

For 35 years, Tom Hoeksema has been an advocate for people with special needs here at Calvin as well as throughout West Michigan and in the Christian Reformed Church.  Tom was born in Grand Rapids, graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School and from Calvin College as a member of the class of 1968.  From there he went to Pine Rest Children’s Retreat where he taught children with cognitive and emotional impairments for four years.  At the same time he began work on a doctoral program at Michigan State University, which he completed in 1975.  That fall he started at Calvin College as the first instructor in the new college program to train teachers of the mentally impaired.

This was the same year that Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act so there was significant interest in this new program at Calvin and Tom had plenty of students and lots of work to do in getting this new program off the ground.  At first, Tom created and taught all the courses, and did all the advising.  Even as the program has grown and Calvin has added other faculty with expertise in Special Education, Tom has been at the head of our program for those who want to teach people with Cognitive Impairments.  Tom’s dedication to the program and to his students, as well as his thoughtful and winsome style in the classroom and elsewhere has been appreciated by students and colleagues.  In 2001 the college awarded him the Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching.

In spite of a heavy teaching load, Tom has also found many opportunities to serve his church and community.  He has been actively involved at Grace Christian Reformed Church and has served the Christian Reformed Church and other denominations by helping them to recognize the gifts and respond to the needs of persons who live with disability.  He has served on the Christian Reformed Committee on Disability Concerns and has worked on the Friendship Series, a religious education curriculum for persons with mental impairments. He has served as a member of the National Council of Churches Task Force on Developmental Disabilities.   Tom has been tireless in his efforts to make our campus barrier free.  He was also instrumental in the founding of the Christian Learning Center, which began as a school-within-a-school for children with cognitive impairments in the Grand Rapids Christian Schools and has now grown to be a comprehensive resource for schools, families and churches across West Michigan.

Tom’s leadership in the Education Program continued.  He served as Department Chair and as a leader of many committees and task forces over the years as the Program continues to respond to changes in requirements for teachers.  But Tom isn’t just responding to state requirements; he is also, as a member of the state Department of Education advisory committee, working to get the State to see a model of Education where all students learn together. Tom is looking forward to being able to spend more time with his wife, Mary, and with his children and grandchildren but he will, no doubt, continue to help us think about how we can best be a community that is not defined by labels but by a vision for how we can all be the people of God together.