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In Memory of Ed VanKley

Posted Febuary 11, 2003

Aside from my parents Ed influenced my life more than anyone else. I certainly would not be teaching history at a college in Japan today had it not been for the stimulation of his courses in East Asian and European history and his support and encouragement while I was in graduate school. Ed visited me and my family in Japan some years ago and we were able to do some traveling together and talk about the dismal state of politics in our respective countries. Ed was a man of strong and humane opinions.

The last contact I had with Ed before learning of his untimely death was through an e-mail he sent me in early 2002, as always to offer his encouragement and prayers during a time when I had to deal with a particularly "challenging" problem in university administration.

My condolences to Elaine, Jim, Dan, Mike and the rest of the Van Kley family. Ed will certainly be missed, and remembered.

—Michael Huissen, Bunkyo University, Japan

Posted January 27, 2003

I took two of his Asian history courses in 1968-1969. Fascinating—I loved them. He was a man who clearly loved his subject and his teaching. I always remember his classes as being full—the mark of an excellent teacher whose reputation gets around.

It's still hard to believe he's gone—same with Howard Rienstra, Charles Miller and others from your department.

—John Bosma '69, Baltimore, Md.

Posted October 25, 2002

Ed, more than anyone else, set the standard for the Calvin history department. He was a true professional and insisted that all of us should follow university standards. By his leadership and by providing a model of what such thoroughgoing professionalism involved, Ed did in his way what Wolterstorff and Plantinga did for the philosophy department. Ed inspired generations of students who became professional scholars. When I came to Calvin, Ed's friendship and model were formative in shaping the ways I approached my own work.

—George Marsden, Notre Dame

Posted October 18, 2002

The famous episode when Ed rode the elevator stage in the FAC down into the pit (it had been rigged by naughty students). He announced just before disappearing "I always wanted to go down in history." He had grace with his wit, and much virtue which he never paraded. I miss him very much.

—George G. Harper, Calvin College

Posted October 17, 2002

I remember Ed most fondly as the prof who lifted the glass ceiling for me. He came into the room on the first day of Early Modern European history, gave us the final exam, and smiled. He gave us 20 topics that he'd cover during the semester, he promised to pick six of them for the final, and let us choose three. We were expected to critique the class presentation on the basis of anything we had read. There were no assigned texts, we had to find our own information. I have never worked so hard in a class, nor found the challenge so much fun. Ed was an inspiration, a mentor, a friend, and a colleague. We'll miss his presence a lot.

—Neil Lettinga, Bethel College

Posted October 15, 2002

My memory of Ed Van Kley has to do with his first-rate scholarship and how he passed along that drive for excellence to his students. Ed Van Kley taught the senior history seminar my senior year at Calvin. We each had to write a major research paper, a frightening prospect, but one which Prof. Van Kley made less intimidating by asking us to turn in a rough draft before the final due date and scheduling individual conferences with each of us. I remember my conference vividly. We were in the basement, where the history department was then, and Prof. Van Kley took me through my draft page by page, sometimes line by line. I had never discussed my writing one-on-one with a professor with such intensity before. It made me understand what was at the heart of the historian's craft: to think hard about the past, and to convey that thinking as transparently as possible in your writing. I am now a beginning professor of history myself, and the day that I learned about Ed Van Kley's death I was in the midst of individual student conferences—I stole the idea from him—to discuss the rough drafts of their major research papers. I hope that in my teaching I can convey to my students the same respect and passion for careful scholarship that Ed Van Kley so generously gave to me.

—Rachel Koopmans, Arizona State University

Posted October 14, 2002

When I decided to come to Calvin three years ago, one of the reasons was the honor of serving in the position in the History department formerly held by Ed. Ed welcomed Jan and me warmly to Calvin and Grand Rapids, which we appreciated greatly. It remains an honor for me to be his successor in teaching East Asian history at Calvin.

—Dan Bays, Calvin College

Posted October 11, 2002

"I will never forget a conversation I had with Ed the year I taught at Calvin, 1976-77. I had been in graduate school for two years, and I remarked to him that I felt like I was always trying to catch up with my peers, who seemed to have a great advantage in cultural education, travel experiences, languages, and the like. I told Ed that I was a kid from a lower-middle-class family, and that I felt a distinct disadvantage. Ed very kindly and gently told me about his own working class background, and of serving in the Navy while others were going off to college. He was of course the epitome of the learned and cosmopolitan professor, and by telling me this story, he was suggesting, first, that I should stop whining and get busy, and second, that if a kid like him could make it, so could I. It is no cliche to say that he was an inspiration to us all."

—Joel Carpenter, Calvin College

Do you have memories of Ed VanKley you'd like to share?
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Contact Phil de Haan
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