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Calvin Celebrates Two Legacies
July 5, 2006

Two legendary Calvin College professors have passed away.

Ervina Boevé and Richard Tiemersma both began at Calvin in the 1950s and both left indelible marks on their alma mater during their tenures in the communication arts and sciences department and English department respectively.

Tiemersma passed away July 4 at the age of 87. Boevé passed away on July 1 at the age of 81 after a short battle with acute erythro-leukemia. Services to honor and celebrate both professors will be held this week at the Calvin Chapel.

BoevéDuring her 37-year tenure at Calvin, Boevé directed more than 100 theater productions, some at a time when theater was still viewed with some suspicion by the Calvin constituency.

Tiemersma was also a longtime professor who served 28 years at the college. Calvin once sent out an alumni survey in the form of a blue book with Tiemersma's name on the front and received an unprecedented response. One former student said simply: "I didn't dare not return it."

After retirement both Tiemersma and Boevé were honored by the Calvin Alumni Association with its Faith & Learning Award, an annual honor that is given to a former faculty member who has successfully and consistently integrated faith and learning in the classroom.

"The recipient is a master teacher, making a significant impact on Calvin students in training for a life of service in God's Kingdom," the award criteria states. Those who knew both Boevé and Tiemersma say there is no doubt they both fit the bill.

Retired Calvin English professor George Harper was Tiemersma's friend and colleague and remembers Tiemersma as a superb teacher, especially of rhetoric, and someone who knew English grammar extremely well.

"He used to brag a bit about being the only person in the department who could identify and illustrate a very rare grammatical phenomenon called the Retained Object," Harper says with a smile, adding that "Dick taught several generations of students, most of whom are skilled writers to this day, and they have often sought him out when visiting the college or the town to tell him how he had helped them."

TiemersmaIn a 1995 interview with the Grand Rapids Press, Tiemersma described his teaching philosophy.

"I am a Christian and a Calvinist," he said plainly. "My knowledge is strained through the gut of Calvinism. It is not neutral teaching. Like (Matthew) Arnold and (John Henry) Newman, I believe that a true liberal education enriches the entire person. I wanted my students to take full advantage of the opportunity that a grounding in the liberal arts can give and the rich life that it can provide. I have always wanted to pass on to new generations the personal philosophy and way of looking at things given to me by my mentors."

Tiemersma enrolled at Calvin in 1941, but responded to the draft in 1942 and subsequently spent four years in the military as a commissioned officer. He resumed his studies at Calvin after the military and graduated Calvin in 1949. He went on to earn a master's and a Ph.D. at Northwestern (the latter during a leave of absence from his teaching duties at Calvin, which he began in September 1955).

Boevé graduated from Calvin in 1946 as an education major in English and history, and completed a master's degree in theater at the University of Michigan in 1954. She was hired at Calvin that same year, one of only three women teaching at Calvin at the time. Over time she helped Calvin theater gain acceptance as an academic pursuit, with a major being established in the mid-1970s. Currently the Ervina Boevé Scholarship for Theatre Arts is among the many legacies that honor her contributions to theater at Calvin.

"I always believed that you could be as good of a Christian in the theater as you could in any other field," Boevé once said. "I felt strongly that whatever we do should be done to the best of our ability. That has always been one of my guiding principles."

The service for Boevé will be held on Friday, July 7 at 7 pm in the Calvin Chapel. Visitation for Tiemersma will be from 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm on Friday, July 7, at Zaagman's on Burton Street. A memorial service will be held in the Calvin College Chapel at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 8. Time with the family and light refreshments will follow in the undercroft.