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105 memories

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Dr. William Spoelhof was beloved by the Calvin community near and far. You are invited to share your memories of Dr. Spoelhof here so that others can celebrate the impact he had on those around him.

105 memories

Mike & Linda Hekman   |   Wed, December 17, 2008 at 06:44 PM

What a beloved leader! I still remember back to the 70’s when he used to stroll the campus in the evening and meet and greet anyone he happened to see. One night he saw me pushing my (not yet) wife into the snow and stopped it by saying hello!
Needless to say, I immediately began acting much more like a gentleman! He will go down as one of the greats in our Denomination. Our condolences to all the children and Grandchildren, and especially Bob and Mary.

Peter Tigchelaar   |   Tue, December 16, 2008 at 10:07 AM

At least 50-55 years ago as a young teen I played a trombone solo at some sort of fund raising banquet for Calvin in the Chicago area.  It was one of those “crowd pleasers” with a lot of notes compressed into a short time frame.  Pres. Spoelhof spoke to me afterward and tried to convince me that Calvin was the place where I should some day study.  He even said he would introduce me to Harold Geerdes, then band and orchestra director at Calvin.  A few years later when I did eventually attend Calvin, he reminded me of the banquet and expressed hope that I indeed had become a member of the band.  He even remembered the incident when I came to Calvin several years later as a young member of the faculty.
I remember a caring man of immense Christian wisdom..

Dwayne Masselink   |   Tue, December 16, 2008 at 12:26 AM

I never met Dr. Spoelhof in person but as a member of the Track and Cross Country Teams I remember well his notes of encouragement and congratulations that he sent to me and fellow team members each season.

May God bring peace to his family in their loss but also blessings in the memory of what he contributed to this world as a steward of God.

Christine Metzger   |   Mon, December 15, 2008 at 11:48 PM

I could not attend the memorial service, so was thankful to share in the memorial by video.  I never had the opportunity to meet William Spoelhof, but from all the testimonies I heard today, I know he impacted, not only many individuals, but also an entire community.  It is clear he will be missed.

Mark & Susan Deckinga   |   Mon, December 15, 2008 at 08:14 AM

The Spoelhof family,
  Throughout the years it was a delight to see your father at Raybrook when we would go see Elmer & Marie Van Beek, my wife’s parents. We had a bond because he had an affinity toward bassett hounds. He would make a point of petting them while they waited outside. You are in our prayers and may God wrap His loving arms around you as you grieve the death of your father.

Mark Deckinga

Linda Hertel Dykstra, Ph.D.   |   Fri, December 12, 2008 at 03:33 PM

As a student at Calvin College from 1962-1966 and as the Dean of Women from 1968-1972, it was my privilege to know Dr. Spoelhof from these two perspectives.  The years we worked together were tumulteous times and Dr. Spoelhof was always level-headed and even-handed in his approach to students and was consistently supportive to those of us working in Student Personnel.  It was my great joy and pleasure to work with him.  He was a dedicated Christian and a superb leader.  wonderful friend.

Martha Palma   |   Thu, December 11, 2008 at 09:28 PM

You will be miss!

Peter Dykstra   |   Wed, December 10, 2008 at 10:39 AM

I spoke to Dr. Spoelhof a few times as a student and Chimes editor in the 70’s and got to observe him chair the faculty senate once. I remembered him as an eminence—gracious, distant, restrained and wise, a man who had universal respect, plus that slightly mysterious OSS background. A few years ago I was visiting campus, I think as an Alumni board member, and was introduced to him again as he stood chatting with people after a chapel service. I mentioned that we had grown up in the same church in Paterson NJ, though he had left there probably 60 years ago, before I was born. “Oh, now who were your parents? Your grandparents? Ah, of course I remember—we sat in front of your grandparents. He had a really good singing voice!”

MC   |   Wed, December 10, 2008 at 10:09 AM

I was headed back to my office in the Spoelhof Center from Heimenga Hall when I noticed President Spoelhof in front of me.  I was in a bit of a hurry but didn’t want to brush right by him so kept my distance behind him and followed him through double doors.  To my amazement, he held opened the door for me, smiling, and said “After you”.  He was a gracious, admirable man.

Calvin will miss you, President Spoelhof.  We will see you soon.

Shirley Hoogstra   |   Tue, December 9, 2008 at 06:48 PM

President Spoelhof was a deep source of encouragement for the work of Student Life at Calvin.  He held the work in high regard.  Which made it seem important.  He would tell me about students he was concerned with and ask if we could help.  We always took his concerns seriously.  President Spoelhof was a deep source of encouragement personally. Or course he knew the joys and discouragements of being an administrator at a college. And he always had a kind word.  I will miss him tremendously.  He and I both loved a friend, Carol Smith.  Today they are in glory together.

Martin Trice   |   Tue, December 9, 2008 at 04:08 PM

It was my family’s honor to meet Dr. Spoelhof last fall while moving in our son Ian as a freshman.  During our meeting with the admissions office we were told the history of Calvin and the role Dr. Spoelhof played in the school’s life.

We set out to find Dr. Spoelhof’s office and met him returning from his weekly gathering of colleagues.  We introduced ourselves and he insisted that we come in and talk.  It was a memorable encounter and it was clear that we were in the presence of someone much larger than his appearance betrayed. 

While sitting there, the hymn writer’s words, “may all who come behind us find us faithful” came to mind.  My wife and I knew in that moment that Ian was about to become a beneficiary of Dr. Spoelhof’s faithfulness and we were, and still are, deeply grateful.

Hal Seerveld M.D.   |   Tue, December 9, 2008 at 02:44 PM

The year is 1953 I was an eighteen year old sophomore at Calvin when I received a call:  Dr. Spoelhof wants to see me. I went to his office with fear and trepidation.  Mr. Seerveld, he said, I understand you have a “Jazz” band? (actually I had formed a Dixie Land Band).  Mr. Seerveld, do you practice in the Calvin band room?  Yes sir, we do.  Mr. Seerveld, do you open with prayer before these “jam sessions”?  I said “no sir, but WE will if YOU will open with prayer before a Calvin-Hope basketball game! I will never forget the look on his face—-he had the beginnings of a smile and then said: “Mr. Seerveld, get out of my office”  Twenty or so years later, I had the pleasure of meeting Robert and Lorene Spoelhof and delivered their beautiful baby girl! And now, the kicker: In 2005 I returned to Calvin for our 50th anniversary and guess who was receiving the 50th alumni?  Dr. William Spoelhof, sitting on a chair with his cane nearby.  As we passed by to shake hands with him, he held on to my hand forcing me to stop. He looked up at me and said, God bless you Dr. Seerveld.  I will never forget Dr. Spoelhof.

Rev. Darren Roorda   |   Tue, December 9, 2008 at 12:28 PM

A great man, used during a great time.

Attending Calvin College for one year and the Seminary for 4, I was able to cross paths with him on several occasions. He aged well, growing wiser and wiser. The kind of man with whom I needed or felt I should say very little but instead allow him to fill me up with his character.
Thank you.

Stephen Monsma   |   Tue, December 9, 2008 at 12:17 PM

I served on the Calvin faculty for seven and a half years while Dr. Spoelhof was president of the college.  My most vivid memory is when I appeared before the Board of Trustees to be considered for appointment.  Somehow the question came up why I had not attended the local Christian Reformed Church while a graduate student.  Dr. Spoelhof saved the day when he prompted me to reveal that the undenominational evangelical church I had attended was where I had met my wife. This clearly satisfied the board members who were raising questions.

In all my contacts with Dr. Spoelhof he was wise and patient (with an often impatient, less-than-wise young faculty member).  He balanced a vision for the future of the college with a wise understanding of what could be accomplish in the near term. It was through these qualities that God used him to accomplish much for the college and, through the college, for God’s kingdom here on earth.  He will be missed.

Heuiseung Kim   |   Tue, December 9, 2008 at 11:41 AM

I believe that his passing away is a new start in His Kingdom as a little cheerful boy.
(former student in Calvin Seminary during 1994-1997.)

Rick Zomer   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 09:09 PM

I met Dr. Spoelhof when he would stop by the Residence Life Office when I worked there as the Associate Dean.  He was quick to point out that I often neglected to wear a tie to work, a topic we frequently returned to during his visits to the office. One afternoon following a morning conversation about fashion and the workplace, Dr. Spoelhof walked into my office and presented me with a tie from his personal collection. He told me that it matched my shirt and that he hoped he’d catch me wearing it again. Since that conversation, I made a point of going to see Dr. Spoelhof whenever I could especially when I was “dressed appropriately for work.” During those visits I gained great respect for Dr. Spoelhof and the years of service he gave to the college. Calvin would not be the institution it is without his leadership and the campus won’t be the same without his presence.

Mark Hofman   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 06:15 PM

In November of 2006 my grandmother invited President Spoelhof over dinner. With five of her adult grandchildren in town, she had us all over to hear his stories and have him share memories from the past. I was the lucky one who had the opportunity to pick him up from Raybrook manor. Upon entering my beat-up Toyota, we joked about how the fender looked a bit “loved.” He had recently been told he was not allowed to drive by himself anymore and we lamented his recent loss of freedom. After a wonderful evening of stories about the Church, war and the rest of the world, I drove him home and he thanked me for assisting him in “getting out” for an evening. I’ll never forget his warmth and humor on that wintery night.

David Hoekema   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 04:47 PM

Although I have served at Calvin under two later presidents, it was President Spoelhof who interviewed me when I was hired to fill in for a Philosophy sabbatical in 1974, after I’d been just two years away from Calvin in the Princeton graduate program.  I still sported shoulder-length hair and a George Monsma-style beard, and President Spoelhof doubtless remembered my involvement in Vietnam War protests and some notorious student mischief, including the Bananer.  And now I had been recommended as a temporary instructor.

“David, some instructors strive, in matters of dress and address, to conduct themselves as the peer of their students. Will that be your approach?”  I got the point:  I took care to dress more formally than did students and, more important, to be friendly but still demanding in my relationships with students.

John Bruinooge   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 04:18 PM

I have wonderful memories of visiting Great Uncle Bill and Aunt Ange at their house on the college campus.  Uncle Bill was my mother’s (Roberta Spoelhof) favorite uncle and it didn’t take me long to realize why.  He was a man who enjoyed life and everyone he ever came in contact with.  Even though I was very young at the time, I remember Aunt Ange serving ice tea on the large screened-in porch while I listened to the wonderful stories about my family as only Uncle Bill could tell them.  It was there that he and my Grandfather (Rev. Charles Spoelhof) had a funny story about “Rockland County” and how they laughed and laughed.  They never got through the entire story and as a result we never knew the outcome—but to this day if one of us says “Rockland County” we all crack up and still have no idea why.

John Bruinooge

Cindy DeBoer   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 01:47 PM

I so enjoyed seeing Dr. Spoelhof every day as he walked past my window on the way to the emeritorium.  He would hit my window with his cane and when I looked up he would wave and smile. I introduced two of my children to him (my daughter shares his birthday) and when I introduced him as Dr. Spoelhof he corrected by saying “Hi, I’m Bill”.

I praise God for Dr. Spoelhof’s faithful guidance as President of Calvin and also the way he quietly served and guided when he came everyday to his office.

Paul Spoelhof   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 12:46 PM

As a child in the 70’s, I recall visiting my great- Uncle Bill and Aunt Ange at their Calvin home.  To this day I don’t eat sweet pickles because none, can live up to the memory of those Aunt Ange gave me on one vist.

Years later, as a Calvin student “Uncle” Bill was always happy to see me, not matter the circumstance.  I was always welcome in his office and often took advantage of that invitation.  Most of our converstaions centered on family history and his adventures around the world after the War.  These memories remain my fondest of a short stint at Calvin.

John L. Steen   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 12:24 PM

I was born and brought up in Paterson, NJ.  During my childhood days my parents, John and Minnie Steen often talked about two Calvin greats; President Spoelhof and Professor Timmerman.  During 1925 to 1927, my father was Bill Spoelhof’s teacher and baseball coach at Eastern Academy.

I never met Dr. Spoelhof until the 1960’s when he was President.  I was at Calvin interviewing seniors for teaching positions at Eastern Christian.  I went to the President’s office, introduced myself and he invited me to have lunch the next day.  His secretary said he had a luncheon meeting scheduled with The Executive Committee of The Board.  Dr. Spoelhof said “cancel it and arrange a luncheon in my dining room with the men from New Jersey.”  During lunch, he said “tell me what is going on in New Jersey.”  His vivid description of streets, towns, people, churches and business establishments in the Paterson/Midland Park area was remarkable.

Ever since then we have enjoyed a very close relationship.  Soon afterwards he said “John, please call me Bill.” 

There were numerous annual visits to his apartment and office ever since.

During his last visit to New Jersey, I had the prividlege of taking him around to some of his old favorite places.  The Hayfields in Prospect Park, Eastern Academy, and his friend John Timmerman’s former home in Paterson.  We viewed Paterson from the cliffs next to Hinchliff Stadium.  He remembered the names of Paterson streets more than anyone I ever met.

During one of our visits to his apartment, he questioned me about my knowledge of Fair Lawn Cemetary.  It soon became apparent that he wanted me to check out the Spoelhof plot.  I subsequently sent him photographs which he very much appreciated.  His mother, father and two brothers are burried there.  One is the first William Spoelhof, his brother who died before his first birthday.  I invite anyone interested to contact me for a Spoelhof life tour of the Paterson area.

During one of my visits to his apartment, he invited my wife Candy to play Ange’s piano for him.  From the old black psalter he requested his favorite psalms.  Candy played, he sang and the tears flowed down my cheeks.  A couple months later he sent Candy a letter.  “I just had the piano tuned, please come back.”  She did.

In 1999, my Uncle Coach Barney Steen and I wrote a book of the Steen Family. Bill Spoelhof contributed recollections and rememberances in New Jersey for our book.  In it he mentions that Rinse Spoelhof his father worked for my grandfather Lambert Steen at the old Cramer and King Silk Dyeing and Printing Company. Rinse worked there as a Black Dyer after the great silk strike of 1913.

A number of times I intentionly came to Calvin to visit him for the 10:00AM coffee gathering with his colleagues.  As I entered the door, he would always announce “New Jersey has arrived.”  This summer he graciously introduced my daughter, Bonnie from Kentucky to these intelectual giants.

In 2002 I was a delegate to Synod.  He invited me to have lunch with him.  Since I did not have a car, Bill said “I’ll drive if you don’t mind living dangerously.”

Bill Spoelhof was a brilliant, gifted God fearing man.  He always remained humble and was filled with compassion.  He never forgot his New Jersey roots. It was my priviledge to be his New Jersey friend for the past 45 years.

I will miss him dearly.  My visits to Calvin will never be the same.

Richard Mouw   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 10:33 AM

When I was interviewed at Calvin College for a Philosophy department position, Dr. Spoelhof was a little worried about me: I had been raised in the Reformed Church in America, and those were the days when very few Calvin faculty came from outside the CRC. In his interview with me he asked me whether I was willing to support Christian schools, and I told him that I had for several years attended Riverside Christian School in Paterson, N.J. He broke into a wide grin:“Great!” he said. “I went there too!” Many times after that he would say to me, “I knew you were OK right from the beginning, because you went to Riverside.”

I was eligible for tenure in 1975-76, but I was on a sabbatical leave at Princeton University that year. I could have waited a year to go through the process, but Dr. Spoelhof asked me to make that the year when I received tenure, including a trip back to Grand Rapids for a board interview, because that was the year of his retirement and he said he wanted to be the president when I was promoted.

William Spoelhof was my hero. He took a very personal interest in my, which meant that there were times when he wasn’t very happy with some things I did and said. But I knew he always cared deeply about me, and during a very difficult time in my personal life he was a “tough love” pastor to me. He has been for me a model of what an academic president should be. I am deeply grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to have known him.

Daniel Williams   |   Mon, December 8, 2008 at 12:46 AM

Dr. Spoelhof represented to me the commitment, dedication and passion that I loved being a part of at Calvin. His passing is mourned even by those of us who knew him only by sight and reputation. He was and is for me, and icon of Calvin.

Rick Spykman   |   Sun, December 7, 2008 at 09:00 PM

I recall that when I was young my father, a Calvin College graduate who joined Calvin’s Theology faculty, often expressed warm appreciation for President Spoelhof’s wisdom and sense of humor as a college leader in the years when Calvin was growing and transitioning to a new campus.  President Spoelhof’s legacy was evident when I was a student at Calvin years ago.  And last Summer, visiting the campus with my daughter (a high school senior who will be a Calvin College student next Fall) I noticed President Spoelhof in the faculty lounge and we enjoyed a few moments of conversation.  Even in his late 90’s President Spoelhof was a warm and engaging ambassador for Calvin College.  He set a high standard of academic quality, spiritual focus and engagement.

Bill and Delores Stob   |   Sat, December 6, 2008 at 10:03 PM

Both of us were enormously blessed with the presence and leadership of William Spoelhof. He was the perfect blend of scholar, friend and mentor. He has shaped the lives of both of us more that he could ever have imagined. Without his wisdom and encouragement neither of us would be the people we are today.We are impoverished by his absence; heaven has been enriched.The standard for leadership at Calvin has been established.

Maria Brouwer   |   Sat, December 6, 2008 at 04:21 PM

I remember growing up celebrating every Christmas Eve at their home and the warm hospitality of family. He was always warm, loving, and wise and Uncle Bill to me.  What an amazing person he was and the amount of people he impacted beyond what we can imagine.  He was incredible and a blessing to all.

Roberta Bruinooge   |   Sat, December 6, 2008 at 03:22 PM

I have so many happy memories of Bill Spoelhof.  He was a favorite uncle of mine and I loved him very much.

His New Jersey niece,
Roberta (Spoelhof) Bruinooge

Lynn Marsh   |   Sat, December 6, 2008 at 01:27 PM

I met Dr. Spoelhof as a freshman waiting in library lobby during summer orientation.  I was learning how to juggle and he approached me to ask if I could teach him how to juggle.  He also told me to visit him when I began school.
I didn’t find the time to visit until his 95th birthday when I left a card on his office. He must have looked me up in the directory because the next day he called my dorm room to thank me for the card.  He enjoyed the fact that it was homemade.  From then on, I kept sending him cards for Christmas, his birthday, Valentine’s Day, or sometimes other occasions.  He gave the current card a place of prominence in his office.

I visited him during the school year and he always blessed me with many stories and laughs.  He loved entertaining students in his office which was full of memorabilia for great discussion starters.
One day I asked about some pictures of Calvin and he elaborated on the old campus and the new campus and all of the thought that went in to planning the campus. 
He told me about the beginning of my academic program at Calvin and how it was almost cut!  He asked me about my favorite professors and shared stories about when he first met them. 
He’d tell me stories about his wife and all the things they got to do together. One day I asked about a book on his couch and he told me that he was just learning some French because he had always wanted to learn more.
He was much like an additional grandfather.
He would offer me some of the cookies that he kept in his office. He was also very humble and when he had a stack of “Forever Faithful” books to sign for people, he mentioned that he didn’t know what all of the fuss was about.

He was a great person whose smile could light up the darkest room.  He was always encouraging. He always wanted to know what was going on in my life and always made a note for me to say Hi to my folks from him.  There was not a day that I visited him that I didn’t leave feeling blessed and more excited for the future.

Dr. Spoelhof, you will be missed, but your legacy will live on.

Kathleen Bosman Klompeen   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 03:42 PM

President Spoelhof visited my home church in Lynden, WA one summer (in the 60s)when I was a student at Calvin College. As I walked up to greet him, he greeted me by name.  That attention to detail (obviously he looked up the names of Lynden students prior to his trip there)and his caring attitude for students was a wonderful endearing trait.  I now work as an executive assistant for the President of a private college and have all the more appreciation of the demands upon a college president. Thank God for Godly presidents!

Ed Speyers   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 03:26 PM

Dr. Spoelhof modeled for my photography project in 2001. The project was on different hand movements and placements. I took a shot of his hands resting on his cane. When I finished he said, quick as whip:

“Be sure to show me your handiwork.”

He was always good with wordplay. He will be missed!

Beye Fyfe   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 03:15 PM

My connection to the Calvin community is once removed.  My father, William Fyfe, spent the final decades of his architectural career designing the “new” Calvin campus.  It was a dream job for any architect:  a beautiful site and a client whose purpose was clear and whose collective mind was open to professional advice and compromise.

By any definition, my father was a “liberal” Christian.  As a child in Oak Park, Illinois, he and his family attended church at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, to this day a Unitarian Universalist congregation.  I once asked him whether he felt any tension between his own beliefs and the “conservative” environment at the school.  As it turns out, he and Dr. Spoelhof had addressed their MUTUAL misgivings on that point early in their relationship, and their deeply collaborative work on the development of the campus proceeded with full mutual respect.  For me, it was an early lesson on the universality of religious impulse and expression.  And, in these heady days of “inclusion” in national politics, I believe that the Calvin campus stands as a tribute to two individuals who were not deterred by superficial differences.

Dan Dykstra   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 03:03 PM

Dr. Spoelhof was a campus figure like none other.  Regularly present at chapel services, sporting events, and music programs, his enduring love for Calvin College and its mission was evident to all.  He was a great man…and he will be greatly missed.

Liz DeJongePosthuma   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 12:57 PM

My parents shared a house with the Spoelhofs when my dad and President Spoelhof were both in grad school at U of M.  My dad shoveled coal in the winter to help pay for the rent.  On Saturday nights the big treat was that the two couples shared a quart of ice cream. 
Also we have seen President Spoelhof many times over many years at Calvin basketball games.

Erin   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 12:02 PM

He always had a smile for everyone and looked you right in the eye.

David P. Okkema   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 06:41 AM

Dr. Spoelhof was a very good college President.  He seemed to handle issues calmly and quickly.  He was always available to students.  In later years, it was always great to see him at the basketball games.

David Okkema
Class of 73

David C. Bruinooge   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 01:22 AM

I will always have fond memories of Dr. William Spoelhof, my Great Uncle. Uncle Bill’s older brother, Rev. Charles Spoelholf, was my Grandfather. Grandpa and Grandma Spoelhof retired to Grand Rapids, MI, in 1962, which led to many years of Bruinooge family summer vacations being spent in GR. My brother Art and I stayed with Uncle Bill, Aunt Ange, Elsa and Pete at their house on the Knollcrest campus the first couple of vacations. Uncle Bill even put us and my Father to work laying patio brick in the back yard. Pete, Art and I played handball in the enclosed handball court in the new gym. One time, we threw a Superball against the walls and the ball exploded into many pieces. We rode bikes all over the campus, played tennis on the new tennis courts, played basketball in the gym, hit golf balls by the track and basically had a blast playing all over the campus. Uncle Bill gave our family tours of the campus every summer, including buildings that were under construction. We also played golf with Uncle Bill and Pete at Indian Trails Golf Club several times. I remember Uncle Bill slicing a ball onto 28th Street from the 10th or 11th tee and barely missing several moving cars. I believe he even went to look for the ball! All of those experiences made me feel that Calvin College was a second home and I knew at an early age that I would get my degree from Calvin. I had the pleasure of being handed my diploma cover (diplomas were mailed later) from Uncle Bill in 1975. Kathi and I extend our sympathy to Bill, Elsa and Pete and their families.

Brian Roelofs   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 12:21 AM

I’m sorry for the future generations of Calvin basketball players who won’t get to see President Spoelhof looking down from his usual balcony seats. He was a living embodiment of the Calvin tradition that we admired and respected and wanted to be a part of. He will be missed by a great number of people across the generations at Calvin and we were blessed to have known and been impacted by him.

Paul Bylsma   |   Fri, December 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

2006-President Spoelhof and President Byker as Simon and Garfunkel performing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Hilarious.

Jim Hofman   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 11:03 PM

What an incredible life he shared with us!
In 2005, I was at Fridays at Calvin with my daughter Marva. We were with a group that had exited the library and met Dr. Spoelhof walking along the path. He remembered me by name, and wanted to meet my daughter, whom he encouraged to come to Calvin of course!

John W. Medendorp   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 09:09 PM

Can an era end quietly, in one’s sleep? Apparently it can. I suppose the manner of Dr. Spoelhof’s passing is in that sense much like the manner of his life and contribution—unobserved by most of us, but with a significance yet to be manifest. I knew him only casually. He always made eye contact, if one was willing, and always offered a greeting, even remembering one’s name. His constant presence gave the assurance of rootedness, like a giant tree, among whose branches we could safely climb. He will be sorely missed.

Paul Bakker   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 08:49 PM

Dr. Spoelhof was a kind and generous man. He always treated individuals equal regardless of race and status. I have found him to very thoughtful and caring. Jessie Lee was an Food Service employee at Calvin for over 30 years. When she announced her retirement, Dr Spoelhof thanked her for her dedication and willingness to serve so many while working for the Calvin Community. He will be greatly missed by many, we rejoice that he is in heaven singing praises with his lovely wife, Ange.
Glory be to God,

Paul Bakker
Creative Dining Services

Mark Schrouder   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 08:36 PM

It was my honor to escort Dr. Spoelhof to the senior breakfast as part of the weekend commencement program for the class of 1979.  I remember his kind words of encouragement and his gracious spirit making me think of him more as a beloved grandfather than the revered past president of the College.  He made the same impression when later that same day he recognized me during the commencement ceremony while seated on the stage and gave me a congratulatory wink, just like my grandfather might have done had he been alive.  President Spoelhof and I had never formally met prior to that day, but he took the time and made the effort to acknowledge me in a way I vividly remember nearly 30 years later.  He will be sorely missed.

Debra Freeberg   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 07:13 PM

In the fall of 1991, I was moving into my new office in Heiminga Hall three offices down from the Emeritorium because there was no room for me in the CAS department. I believe I was standing on my desk chair, trying to get the curtains closed when I heard a cough and a hello. I turned and saw an older gentleman behind me. Embarrassed, I climbed down to say hello. “You must be a new professor. Hello, I’m Bill Spoelhof.” We exchanged a few pleasantries and he left me to set up my office.  For weeks after that as I passed him in the corridor I greeted him as “Bill.” Then one of my new colleagues in the Religion department overheard me and then asked me if I knew who I was saying hello to. “Not really.” “That’s President Spoelhof! The Past President! And the description of his many accomplishments were detailed in full.

It was only then that I began to realize that most people addressed Bill deferentially as “President Spoelhof.” Moreover, my cheery “good morning, Bill” was looked on by some as a bit “familiar.” So eventually, I began alternating “President Spoelhof” and “Bill.” I think he enjoyed being called by his first name.

Jeff Smies   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 07:12 PM

Even though I was one of 3000 students in the 1970’s when I was at Calvin, Dr. Spoelhof always was approachable by anyone. He will be missed.

Rachel Hurst   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 07:04 PM

I had a grandmother (Oma) who was a few years younger than President Spoelhof. For years, when Oma would visit Grand Rapids she would join President Spoelhof in the emeriti office for coffee. I remember Oma and President Spoelhof sitting together for hours, holding hands and singing old dutch hymns from memory.
He will be missed.

Kirk Stewart   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 06:20 PM

I met Dr. Spoelhof just once, very briefly, but it was a meeting I will never forget.

As I was leaving Hekman Library one day toward the Fine Arts Center, I had the usual focus and tunnel vision: get to class, do well, don’t waste time.

That day, however, I was stopped on the sidewalk by an older gentleman I did not recognize. He walked with a cane, but he stood up straight, and he seemed very powerful, beyond physicality. His neat gray pants and red jacket made him the classic picture of scholarly gentlemen. I can only hope he was at least amused by my shredded jeans, wrinkled t-shirt, and unshaven face.
“Are you headed over to the FAC?” he said.
I answered yes, and he followed up with a casual “Do you mind if I walk with you?”
Before I had even spoken my slightly confused answer of “Sure” he had already hooked his free arm into mine and we started down the sidewalk and across the parking lot to the Fine Arts Center. We chatted idly during our slowly advancing walk, and I found that I instantly liked this strange old man I had never met. He seemed to be the manifestation of calm, humility, and wisdom. He said something almost at the end of our walk that made me realize who he was. Feelings of honor and privelege to accompany this Calvin celebrity swelled up in me, and I instantly felt guilty that my singleminded focus had almost lost me the opportunity to witness the peace and strength that he radiated, and thankful that he had seen that I needed the accompaniment much moreso than he did.
As we reached the top step of the FAC, he unhooked his arm from mine, and I stepped forward to open the door for him. He shuffled through, and turned, saying, “You did great. I can take it from here.”
I smiled at his sense of irony, and I said “No problem, it was my pleasure.”
The last thing he said to me I will remember forever, not because it was particularly profound or that it met a certain need within me, but that he seemed so sure that his advice was true, almost as if he already knew about me, knew what I was good at, and where I was headed.
He said, “You’re a good young man. Study hard now, it’ll be worth it someday.”

I was pleased to meet you, Dr. Spoelhof. I hope that we can take another walk sometime.

Mikerlande Vernet   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 06:19 PM

To be honest I had no idea who Dr. Spoelhof was but he sounds like a great man. I wish I had met him, he sounds like an interesting kind man. Thanks for all you have done Dr. Spoelhof, thanks for all the lives you touch even mine though I didn’t know you. Through all these stories I can tell that you live your life well spent.

God Bless.

Rest In Peace Dr. Calvin College.

Frank Roberts   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 06:15 PM

I have so many fond memories of President Spoelhof. As a student, I and a few others were expelled for a week from Calvin for infractions against Calvin’s rules of behavior. At that time several of us malefactors were already appointees to serve as leaders of the old dormitory on campus for the following year. We all wondered, will part of our punishment include having our appointments as dorm leaders cancelled. President Spoelhof made sure that we were disciplined, but he also made sure that we took over as dormitory counselors the following academic year. At the time I was amazed at his kindness and grace in that situation, and that remains true till this day. 

Also surprising to me a few years later was his invitation to me to join the faculty of Calvin College. I knew that there was little that he forgot from the past, and assumed that my earlier sins would not stand me in good stead as a candidate for membership on the faculty. However, he never mentioned the past. But he did get the last laugh. My first committee assignment at Calvin was on the Discipline Committee.

What I soon discovered was that President Spoelhof had in fact brought back many former malefactors to the faculty, including some of those who had been involved with the infamous “Bananer,” a spoof that he told us in the coffee room that we shared each day caused him more grief than any event in his presidency.

All of this certainly is testimony to President Spoelhof’s wisdom, patience, and the ability to see beyond the mistakes of people and see also their potentiality.

There is so much more to be said. I’ll end by repeating what I said to my wife when I first heard of President Spoelhof’s death. This fine Christian gentleman has had a greater impact on my professional and personal life than anyone else. I cherish the many wonderful memories I have of him as well as all that he did to make Calvin College what it is today. He was truly a faithful servant in God’s Kingdom.

Frank Roberts
Professor of History, emeritus

Chad Meeuwse   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 04:16 PM

One wintry weekend probably four years ago while visiting Grand Rapids I went over to Raybrook to see my great-aunt, Jenn Jelles. As I got out of the car in front of the apartments, the gentleman in the car next to mine had also just climbed out and called me over to him. I did not recognize the man at first, but I could tell he was a resident. He shook my hand, asked me my name and quickly asked if I was a Calvin student. Still unaware of who he was, I politely responded that I was a Trinity Chr. College alum and he, just as politely, spoke of his own fondness for that institution- which, unbeknownst to me, Dr. Spoelhof provided much leadership for Trinity in its early years. I soon realized who it was I was speaking with though he waited until we got inside before actually telling me his name. He grabbed onto my arm and we walked across the slippery driveway into the main entrance. Just as we were about to part ways he asked who I was visiting. He knew Aunt Jenn pretty well, so he said, “Why don’t you go grab her and bring her by to Bill Spoelhof’s room?”  The three of us had a lovely visit in his apartment. He showed genuine interest in hearing my story, and made connections to my life I would not have expected. He reflected on his life since his wife, Ange, had passed away, and Aunt Jenn shared her own stories as a widow three-times over. Aunt Jenn pressed him to write and publish his memoirs, and I could tell by how the conversation went that this was something they had gone over before. We left with a “Do come again!” and as Aunt Jenn and I made our way back to her apartment she said, “He is such a good, kind-hearted man.” I said, “Yes. He certainly is!”

Darlene Kortenhoeven Meyering '69   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 02:52 PM

I was a Calvin student in the late ‘60’s when Dr. Spoelhof was president. He was gregarious and attended concerts and plays by student groups with Ange.  Since I was in both a Capella Choir and Thespians, he knew my name, as well as my husband Bob’s, also a Thespian.  By the early 80’s we had returned to GR.  In January, 1983, I was hired by Henry De Wit and have worked here since in public relations and administration.  Dr. Spoelhof became more that just a “presence” on campus and in my life, he became a dear friend.  Upon by my own father’s death in December 1987, Dr. Spoelhof filled some of the loss for me.  They were exactly the same age, same height, and had the same presence.  My own dad was a taskmaster when he had to be, but his heart was loving, compassionate and grace-filled.  Every visit with Dr. Spoelhof was a reminder of the Christian love and grace of my own dad.  Like others that have written, I would stop and visit him in the Emeritorium or sit next to him at a campus event.  Always he kissed me on the cheek and whispered “you are a special friend!”
One week before his death, Susan Byker and I paid him a brief visit. It was one of his last communicative moments and we were both greatly blessed by it.  He knew I was chairing the commmittee to prepare his “eventual” memorial service.  He looked bright-eyed at me and aaked, “When is that funeral planned for?”  I was taken by surprise and said, “We’re not here to talk about that, we want to talk with you!”  He quipped, “Well, don’t make a fuss!”  What an unforgettable moment.
No fuss, dear friend.  Only deep gratitude and love!

Nathan Leamer   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 02:22 PM

Yesterday my wife of one month and I were reflecting on the recent news of Dr. Spoelhof’s passing. She told me something that I think is very wise and thoughtful.
“We will miss him and the campus will feel a bit empty with his vacated office, yet today was the first day he has seen his wife in years.”
Blessed be the Lord for the joys that he granted us.
His life, marriage, work, and perseverance are all components of a life that we all can admire and learn from

Alisa Tigchelaar   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 01:43 PM

President Spoelhof always had a kind word for everyone.  In his regular greetings in Hiemenga Hall, he remembered my name and that of my sister as well as tidbits of information about our lives.  Bill’s question was never what I was doing, but how.  It was a lesson to me that a man of his stature conducted himself this way.  I will miss him.

nellie berg dykhuis '75   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 01:38 PM

Dr. Spoelhof spoke at my graduation from Calvin. He was a learned man yet humble. His deliberate choice to continue to be involved on-campus and off, to enjoy students of all ages, and to be helpful,  beyond legal retirement years, is truly inspirational. His vision and patience are rare in these times. I hope for at least one of our generation to be that for the next. thanks !

Frank Speyers   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 11:17 AM

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

John L. Ubels   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 11:00 AM

During freshman orientation in 1970 one of my friends and another guy were looking through the door of the PE building, which was locked. A man walked up to them and said, “Hi, my name is Bill. I work here. Would you like to see this building?” They said that they would like to see it, so Bill unlocked the door and showed them around. Much later they learned that they had been given a tour of the PE building by the college president.

Robert Otte   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 10:48 AM

During my sophomore year, I was involved in an accident on Franklin near Madison on our way home to Wisconsin.  My cousin was driving.  I was knocked unconscious and brought to the hospital.  When I arrived back at the men’s dorm, I got a call from Dr. Spoelhoef, who had somehow heard about the accident.  He asked how I was feeling, and then informed me that Sid Youngsma was on his way to the dorm with an airplane ticket so i could fly to Milwaukee where someone was going to pick me up and help me to join other Calvin students heading to Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  Just who made all those arrangements, I really never found out.  But how many college students can expect even a call from the president of their college, much less all the arrangements he and his staff had made simply to help one student go home for Thanksgiving?
  He was a remarkable man.

Robert Otte

Susan (Youngsma) Wilkins   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Psalm 116:15
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”

We are so grateful for the friendship that my grandpa shared with your father and grandfather.  Your family has been precious to ours for a long time!  I’m quite certain Syd was waiting with a giant welcome! 

With love and fondness,

William R Postmus   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 09:25 AM

Doctor Spoelhof has been an icon in my life as faculty then President at “my school”. Having older sibs (Roger, 1953 and Nancy, 1956)who are alumni, I was enamored about a prospective Calvin education as a youngster..and William Spoelhop was a vital persona in the Calvin reputation, function, leadership through the years. His successors, and the continuing growth and ‘maturation’ of Calvin as it contributes to ‘The Greater Education Community’, are further affirmation of his great influence and True Leadership and Model of Christian excellence.

It is a privelege and honor to be a Calvin alum and much of Calvin has been “polished” by the continuing and loving nurture of Calvin by and with William Spoelhof and his array of supporters and fans….Praise God for Dr. Spoelhof…and Calvin College!

Ken Bootsma   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 09:06 AM

A dedicated leader who with God’s help and a talented administrative council, staff and board, transformed Calvin College during his 25 years as president, into an institution of international acclaim.  He is a legacy!  His wife and best friend, Ang,was a wonderful associate and honored us all with her gracious spirit.  I will never forget his speech (during the termoil of the 70s) entitled, “The Products You Send Us!”  I appreciated his letters and caring spirit!

Rhoda Riley   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 03:31 AM

My pray are with you all, May God bless your family. I am so sorry.

Carol Rienstra   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 02:14 AM

Dr. Spoelhof’s love of people and commitment to lifelong learning was an inspiration to many involved in CALL - the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning.  He had a special seat in the Fine Arts Center for the CALL Passport to Adventure travel films and rarely missed any of the five programs each year.  Last year he told me he didn’t have the tickets - “Could it be I didn’t pay for them yet?”  I reminded him that he got complimentary tickets and they were probably sent to him through campus mail. He asked me if I’d be willing to look for them on the desk in his office.  Sure enough,  I found them in a big brown envelope not too deeply buried among magazines and miscellaneous papers.  He smiled and quietly said, “Thank you.  Now, where should we put these tickets so I don’t loose them again?”  I told him that even if he came to the travel film without a ticket, he would get in and be seated in his special spot. “Do you really think so?, he asked.  As I was getting ready to leave, he asked, “Would you please hand me that book? I think I’ll just sit here and read a little while.”

Christina Rider   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 01:48 AM

As a freshman at Calvin in 1997, I had the privelege of meeting Dr. Spoelhoff.  As he had for hundreds of other students, he asked my name, where I was from, what I was studying.  I told him I was from Iowa, and he told me about some connections he had there.  I will always remember him as the consummate gentleman.

Blessings to the Spoelhoff family in their time of loss.

Harlan Kredit   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 01:09 AM

Dr. Spoelhof had a huge impact on me while attending Calvin in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  His amazing ability to remember names and to treat everyone with courtesy and patience continued to impress me long after I left the campus.  When I think of integrity, I think of Dr. Spoelhof.  My earnest prayers go out to his family.  Harlan Kredit (61)

Julienne Louters   |   Thu, December 4, 2008 at 12:18 AM

When I look at his life, and the legacy he has made, I am in awe.  But he started off just like us, as a student at Calvin College in 1927.  His connection to Calvin continued during his professorship here when he taught history and political science and it extended well beyond his presidency.  I am confident that the spirit of William Spoelhof will live on, captured eternally in the soul of Calvin College.  But William Spoelhof simply says this about himself, “I’m just a plain ordinary person who the Lord used to do something for building His kingdom.” 
This was the conclusion to the speech I wrote last year about Dr. Spoelhof, a close family friend and someone I deeply admired.  I will cherish every story he told me and card he wrote me, but I will also miss him!

Ted & Tena Mejan   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 11:46 PM

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Dr. Spoelhof in this time of loss and remembrance. 
We cherish the memory of a firm and kind leader of the Calvin community.
Personally I remember that when the (men’s) soccer team practiced he’d frequently stop and watch a scrimmage, since the president’s home was on the north side of the field then.  He was an encourager in many ways.

Neil Lettinga   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 11:27 PM

I remember Dr Spoelhof with great fondness.  As a young graduate student in 1978, he invited me into his office behind the fireplace.  We chatted about late medieval and early modern history.  He then gave me two books on the Devotio Moderna and his copy of the Encyclopedia of World History, since he couldn’t imagine having any use for them any more since he’d long been retired.  The copyright on the Encyclopedia of World History was 1940.  On its final page, the Encyclopdia noted that the US had built a “naval base at Pearl Harbor, one of the finest deep water basins in the world.”  It still sits at my elbow, one of the reference books I turn to regularly, and every time I use it, I remember Dr. Spoelhof fondly. 
My I be as gracious when I encounter young grad students…

John J. Badia Class of 2001   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 11:15 PM

I remember on some occasions when we would sit togther and chat while I was a student at Calvin in the late 90’s. I remember seeing him a lot on campus and he always had his walking cane.

Anyway, it was a joy knowing him. I guess like someone said he was Calvin College. May God rest his soul in eternal peace.

Keith Bruxvoort (75)   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 11:15 PM

I first met him when I attended the Young Calvinist Convention at Calvin in 1969.  Each person was assigned to a host family on Sunday and he and his wife were my host.  From that first encounter to my days at Calvin and after, he always remembered me, even though I would only see him sporadically after moving to Indiana in 1975.  He was a wonderful person and will be missed.

Eric Burgess   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 11:13 PM

Dr. Spoelhof was a great Christian man and a visionary leader.  He will be missed.

Dan Broersma   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 10:28 PM

I just wanted to say that although I didn’t really know him at all, I graduated from the Education Program last year and was able to talk to him for just a few moments.  He was an amazing man and Calvin is going to miss him.

Brenda Ritsema Vos   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 10:18 PM

I had the priviledge of cleaning for Dr. Spoelhof while a student at Calvin.  We would always spend time talking together about life, his war stories and experiences.  He was the smartest and wisest person I knew at the time, yet never made me feel inferior.  He wanted to be a reference when I graduated, which I considered a great honor.  He even connected me with others, to help make that transition easier, when he learned that I would be taking a teaching position in Whitinsville, MA . We stayed in touch for years writing back and forth at birthdays and Christmas.  This year there will be no card.  He was truly a great man and will be dearly missed!

Dennis Holtrop   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 09:43 PM

When I was a student at Calvin in the late 1980s, the library lobby was essentially a “smokers’ lounge” and it was there, while enjoying a cigarette, that I made the acquaintance of William Spoelhof.  I was sitting alone, and he took the empty seat next to me.  We exchanged introductions, and then discussed the virtues and vices of cigarette smoking, including the merits of particular brands, pipes-versus-cigars/cigarettes, etc., for about 15-20 minutes.  Then we went our separate ways.  Not surprisingly, I ran into Dr. Spoelhof several times after that conversation (always in the vicinity of the library lobby).  He always remembered my name and asked how things were going.  I saw him last on a visit to campus sometime in the mid-1990s and was pleased to tell him that I had conquered my tobacco/nicotine addiction.  He was the quintessential Calvin College “statesman” and the absence of his physical presence and influence will undoubtedly be felt by many.

Laurie Lemmen '98   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 09:30 PM

I admired Dr. Spoelhof for his exuberant friendliness when I was a student, but it was when I started working in Calvin’s career development office that I got to know his true genius and warm heart. Even though he was in his nineties, he was the go-to guy for questions about history and language. For example, I was trying to come up with a word to describe using flowery language gratuitously. When no one in my department could come up with anything, they suggested I ask Pres. Spoelhof. He noodled on it for a while, and then brought me a piece of paper with “sesquipedalianism” scrolled on it. He also enjoyed a good pun. One day, he stopped by to inquire about the pointy shoe trend. He exclaimed, “I just don’t get the point of it.”

I will miss Pres. Spoelhof, but I’m so grateful for how he enriched life at Calvin, and I’m glad he’s finally home with his wife, who he missed so much.

David Hofman   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 09:11 PM

I remember when I was a freshman at Calvin about 3 years ago, and was still unsure about Calvin and I felt kind of out of place.  One day when I was in the library doing homework, Dr. Spoelhof came up to me and introduced himself.  He also said he drinks coffee every morning in the same place, he told me if I was around then we could sit down and chat some time.  I later found out that he was president of Calvin College many years ago, but it seemed like he was like any other person.  I will always remember him as a very personable and welcoming person.  It is very sad to see him go.

Calvin College   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 08:37 PM

Dr. William Spoelhof IS Calvin College

John Breuker, Jr. '60   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 08:32 PM

I last saw Pres. Spoelhof when I was a guest at a Calvin luncheon for Distinguished Alumni last spring.  I shook his hand, gave greetings and looked him in the eye.  He looked back at me and asked about my career in some detail, reminisced about his relationship with my father, then Pres. of the BOT, during the move from Franklin St. to Knollcrest. What a memory!  What a man!  What a blessing from God to Calvin, the CRC and evangelical Christianity!

Ruth Palma   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 07:48 PM

I will always remenber this distinguish man walking through the hallways of the library or talking with students or staff in the foyer. He was always part of the scene at Calvin. I never had the pleasure to meet him, but my memories of Calvin will always bring me back him. You could always see him and feel that he cared for Calvin and its community. He will be greatly missed.

Kathy Klaasen '70   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 07:40 PM

I happened to meet Dr. Spoelhof on a Spoelhof Center stairwell while on a trip to Calvin in the 1990’s.  He greeted me with his familiar warm smile and asked about my life since Calvin.  We shared some of life’s painful struggles, the loss of his dear wife, concern for his daughter, and my concern for a daughter.  He talked of God’s faithfulness, and we ended by promising to pray for one another. I was impressed and humbled by his sincere offer of prayer and the gift of a holy moment in a stairwell with this man of God.  He will always be the “face of Calvin” for me.

Jennie Zeilstra   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 07:32 PM

I first noticed Dr. Spoelhof while I was freshman.  As many freshman, I knew no one, but he always smiled at me as I would walk out of the 3rd floor of the library.  After mustering up enough courage, I started waving at him.  My sister caught me, and eventually told me who this great man was.  I couldn’t believe that he was the one I was casually waving at everyday! 

During my sophomore year, a friend and I visited him in his apartment.  We were both blown away by the sincerity and humbleness of Dr. Spoelhof.  He told us his life story, and spoke extensively about his wife.  It was clear that his faith in God and his love for his wife and family were the foundation of his life.  After all this, he asked US about our lives, and where God was leading us!  Spoelhof has made a deep impression at Calvin College, but has made lasting impressions on so many students—even if it was just through a daily wave.

Katie Boelema '04   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 07:15 PM

One of my favorite things about being a student at Calvin was my interactions with Dr. Spoelhof. I would often say hello to him as he was on his way to morning coffee hour near the Library Lobby or at chapel.  Sometimes I would walk him to wherever he was going next and we would chat.  My favorite time was when I walked him to his car once and when I was surprised at the fact that he was still driving, his response with a big smile was “ssh, don’t tell anyone”.  It was obvious to me that he really loved Calvin because he continued to visit and serve well after he was gone.  This obvious devotion instilled a deep love of Calvin in me, and showed me that just because a person is retired and older they can still spread the Father’s love and serve others.

Lloyd De Vries   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 06:44 PM

Calvin grad in 68

Mike Van Denend   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 06:35 PM

“Dr. Spoelhof” is perhaps the most influential figure to grace the Calvin College stage.  His vision, wisdom and leadership has forever shaped this instiution.  Alumni of Calvin everywhere know him, respect him and have stories of significance about him to tell.  But later in his life (and mine), I came to know “Bill Spoelhof,” a kind and gentle man, full of compassion and caring insight.  The first time I was at a public event on campus with Loni, my wife-to-be(although I didn’t know that for certain at the time), Dr. Spoelhof pulled me over to his chair and whispered, “I approve.”  That comment had quite an impact on me, in its tenderness and sincerity.  Loni and I loved this man, a man after God’s own heart.

Phil de Haan   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 06:26 PM

I did not know Dr. Spoelhof as a Calvin student but began my relationship with him soon after I started working at Calvin in 1985 as sports information director. He would have been around 75 at the time! He enjoyed Calvin sports and was a pretty regular attendee of Calvin sporting events, including men’s basketball. Later, after I left the life of an SID to work in media relations at Calvin, I continued to see him on campus and have short conversations with him. They were always enjoyable and I usually learned a little something about Calvin’s history. One time I bumped into him at Meijer and there I had a chance to teach him little something. We saw each other near a freezer case and said hello. He asked me if I knew where the frozen orange juice was. Someone had told him about frozen orange juice and he thought he might give it a try, especially since it was a little cheaper. He asked me what I thought. I told him I wasn’t a big orange juice drinker but my wife was and she much preferred the orange juice in the cartons, especially the kind labeled “not from concentrate.” Her opinion was the taste was better and that it was worth spending a little more. He considered that advice for a moment and then said something to the effect of “the carton it is then.” I had to chuckle. I appreciated the fact that even at his age—he was at the time in his 90s—he was stewardly with his money and willing to consider a new approach. Those were hallmarks of his presidency too. He was a careful steward of the resources God had given him and Calvin College. And he was strong-minded but willing too to consider new approaches. Fitting that who he was in the grocery store was so consistent with who he was as president. He will be missed.

Kathy Bardolph   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 06:05 PM

The day I gave Dr. Spoelhof a ride to his Raybrook apartment holds my favorite memory of him. I was a temp at Calvin, and I drove an old quirky Oldsmobile. Dr. Spoelhof spent most of our shared ride pointing his cane at special features of my car’s interior. “Why is that light on? What’s this thing hanging down for? Did you know that something’s missing here?” My car and I were never the same. Thanks for the memory, Dr. Spoelhof.

Ellen Hoebeke '73   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 06:04 PM

I remember two things most prominently about Pres. Spoelhof. First, his sense of humor about us as students and his sense of proportion when it came to The Bananer.  The second was his enjoyment at finding all the dining hall silverware in his trunk as the conclusion to a very good joke. God gifted Calvin with his wonderful leadership at a time when many colleges lacked just that. I have always felt blessed that he was in my life for my first college degree.

Sasha Wolff   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 05:43 PM

I remember meeting Dr. Spoelhof twice while I worked on the Spoelhof documentary. I have to admit, I didn’t know anything about the man before the project (I just knew there were things around campus named after him) After the project though, I had a whole new respect for Dr. Spoelhof. He was an amazing individual and such a kind man. Dr. Spoelhof you’ll be dearly missed, and I’m glad I got the rare honor of meeting you. I’ll hever forget it!

David Hutchful   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 05:36 PM

I spent a couple hours each week with Dr Spoelhof meeting in his “office”. Some days he would take me to the kitchen area where and he and a gang of his friends hanged out—I learned to appreciate eating raw tomatoes with a dash of salt there…

He was a gracious listener, always quick to extend a friendly hand backed by a warm smile, and this is what I will cherish most about him. He impressed on me that people matter, personal relationships matter and above all, a genuine love of God is what matters in life.

RIP Dr. Spoelhof. You will be missed!

bernard pekelder   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 05:23 PM

I look back with deep gratitude for the associations I treasure with Dr. Spoelhof. The first was as a colleague on the Calvin staff in my role as college chaplain. Even then personal ties were close. But even more, the wonderful ties my wife Jane and I shared with him and Angie during the latter years of retirement. I admired him for his many gifts as administrator; I loved him as a good and faithful friend. I thank God for causing our lives to intertwine for all these years, and grieve the loss of a dear friend.

Bennett Samuel   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 05:12 PM

Dr. Spoelhof always had a smile on his face and greeted me whenever I walked passed the Emeritorium in Hiemenga Hall.  He was very encouraging and inspired me to strive to do God’s work everyday. 
In December 2007, we (Nurses Christian Fellowship and Calvin Student Nursing Association) had the honor of carol singing at Dr. Spoelhof’s Raybrook apartment and it was definitely a privilege.  His love and service will never be forgotten.

Jess Wilcoxson   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 05:08 PM

I am a student worker at Campus Safety, and I would often answer Dr. Spoelhof’s calls for “campus express” to pick him up so he could do some work on campus. It amazed me how he continued his work and remembered his calling even that late in life. I will miss receiving his calls. Rest in peace, Dr. Spoelhof.

Kari Dykhouse   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:55 PM

When I was a student working in the Alumni office, Dr. Spoelhof would stop by often. Though I didn’t have long conversations with him, he always made me feel like I was a part of something larger than myself.  I was a part of a legacy.  His warmth and endearing smile will never be forgotten.

Karen Brewer   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:47 PM

I have many memories of Dr. Spoelhof because the location the Career Development Office is right across the hallway from the Emeritorium, so I would see him daily walk by and greet us with a wave of his cane. Several in our office became his unofficial clerical staff on many occasions, for which we were more than happy oblige. One time Dr. Spoelhof requested that I type up some correspondence for him.  Being a man of action, he wanted it done right away.  Since I was in the middle of another task, I asked him if 20 minutes would be soon enough.  He responded back to me, “How about ten…”  It was done within ten minutes! May you rest in peace, dear friend.

Nick Blystra   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:44 PM

Both as an undergraduate and as a seminary student, I passed by Dr. Spoelhof as he strolled through the halls, cain in hand.  Seeing him always gave me pause.  He was a type of living standing stone.  Like those large cuts of rock standing up in the holy land, he reminded me that the steadfast love of the LORD continues in all its manifest glory from generation to generation.

Ben Cook   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:42 PM

Spoelhof was an awesome guy.

He shot the wind with me about Elvis one time because i was wearing an elvis shirt.

Marvin Zuidema   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:31 PM

Dr. Spoelhof was a gifted educator and administrator who had much to do with making Calvin the marvelous kingdom venture the college has become.  He surely will be missed but his God-gifted wisdom for making things happen will forever serve as a foundation and a model for all to follow. This servant of God was placed in our midst to shape Christian higher education into a dynamic, integrative Christian endeavor! Praise God for Dr. Spoelhof!  He surely was instrumental in shaping me as a young educator.——Also, a big thanks to you Dr. Spoelhof for putting all those lost soccer balls in my office. Somehow, you always were able to find such balls as you went from your office to your home.  Marv Zuidema/HPERDS Dept.

Cara Wood   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:27 PM

I used to work at Village Seafood in Breton Village mall, which was one of Dr. Spoelhof’s favourite places to come for lunch. He would usually get the salmon burger, when it was on special, and always left $1 as a tip. He was such a pleasure to serve.

I was in high school at the time so didn’t actually know who he was at that point. It was my turn to serve him one day, and he was feeling in a particularly playfull mood and asked me how old I thought he looked. I had no idea, so I answered, “I’d say about 75, no more.” He chuckled and said, “Would you believe that I am 94 years old?”

I kept my job for a little while when I first started Calvin, and each time Dr. Spoelhof would come and take his seat (the same one every time without fail), he would ask me how my studies were going, which professors I had and if I was studying as hard as I should. Despite losing his wife, experiences all the many perils of old age, Dr. Spoelhof always came in with a smile, stayed with a cheering comment and always left that $1 on the table as his form of appreciation.

Calvin just won’t be the same without him.

Louise Schreur   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:19 PM

Not too long after starting to work here at Calvin, I met Dr. Spoelhof.  Of course, he had been president when I was a student at Calvin years before, but I don’t think we had actually met in person until then.  He asked where I worked (my first job here 22 years ago was in the German Department) and about my family.  He would always greet me if we met in the halls.  When my daughter was a student here, I introduced her to him.  He was always interested in everyone.  I’ve heard him talk to students in the hallway, asking them their names, where they came from, what they were studying, and welcoming them to Calvin.  He was always so interested and gracious to everyone.  I remember running into him at Meijer from time-to-time over the years, too.  He always said hello and would chat for a bit. Dr. Spoelhof was such a gracious man, dedicated to the college, and a wonderful welcoming presence on campus. I will miss him, but thank God for his long life, the contributions he has made, and that he is with Him now in heaven.

Pellagia 2000-2005   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:18 PM

I remember the many conversations we had on Africa and Zimbabwe each time I passed by “the coffee room” on my way to and from class.  He never forgot my name the first time I told it to him, and never failed to inquire about the situation at home and what he was hearing about it. He was a man with a heart and passion for his Calvin people.

Rest In Peace Dr. Spoelhof.

Virginia Parish Beard   |   Wed, December 3, 2008 at 04:15 PM

I am a Calvin c/o 2000 alum. I was at Dr. Spoelhof’s 90th birthday celebration as a senior at Calvin. I worked the front desk at the admissions office as a student, and Dr. Spoelhof regularly stopped to chat with me. I am originally from Houston, Texas and he would talk to me about his son who lived in Texas. He even saw an article on my in the Grand Rapids Press as a tour guide at Calvin and clipped the article and sent it to me with the sweetest hand-written note. I still have that article and note. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Dr. Spoelhof and think Calvin and this world are a better place for God using him in them! I know he was part of the wonderful legacy that is Calvin College and I am a result of the academic and faith pursuits of Calvin. I have a fuller life because of my time at Calvin and am grateful for the part that Dr. Spoelhof played in making Calvin the place it was and is.