In the Spotlight • Tom and Marge Hoogeboom

Marge and Tom Hoogeboom - click to enlarge image
Marge and Tom Hoogeboom
On a summer Sunday in 1964, Rev. Seymour Van Dyken preached a sermon in a Lafayette, Ind., Christian Reformed Church that would help future generations of young people pay for a Calvin College education.

In the congregation on that summer Sunday morning was a young married couple with their newborn baby girl. Tom and Marge Hoogeboom had come to Lafayette from Grand Rapids to study at Purdue: Tom for a master's degree in chemistry, Marge for her bachelor's in mathematics, begun at Calvin.

Van Dyken based his message for that day on Malachi 3:10: "Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, said the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing."

"We were struck by that verse—'bring the whole tithe,'" Tom said.

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"Our income went down to $200 a month that summer," Marge continued, "and now we had a new baby. Our tithe—$20—was three weeks' worth of food!" But the Hoogebooms decided to take God at his word. They remember not being able to afford a telephone in their mobile home, splurging on a hot fudge sundae (which they shared) and weeping when their parents showed up unannounced with a back seat full of groceries. "The Lord was definitely faithful to us," Tom said, "so 'bringing the whole tithe' is a principle we've lived by all of our lives."

From Lafayette the Hoogebooms moved to Schenectady, N.Y., where both Tom and Marge worked for General Electric's corporate R & D center—Tom in polymer chemistry, Marge in computer programming as GE's first ever part-time professional. When the company transferred Tom to its plastics division in Mt. Vernon, Ind., Marge suggested at a going-away lunch that she could go on working for GE if they would install a teletype in her home. GE valued her work enough to take the suggestion, and in 1969 Marge became one of the country's first telecommuters.

A series of "helpful accidents" in the Mt. Vernon lab led Tom to develop a new product for GE—a flame-retardant, bullet-proof plastic similar to that used in city streetlight globes. Working out the bugs in the color chemistry of this new plastic, Tom emerged from the lab with 11 patents and an idea for a business of his own.

When GE downsized Tom out of a job, it was time to put the idea into effect. In 1976 the Hoogebooms, now the parents of two daughters, moved to Kalamazoo, Mich., where Marge had been offered a job with the Upjohn Company; Tom opened Spectrum Colors, a company that manufactured the color concentrates for plastics.

On the road, selling his product, Tom used a CB radio; his handle—"Rainbow." Besides the connection to a color-making business, Tom had another reason for choosing the name: "When people on the road would ask, 'Why do you have a handle like that?' I could say, 'Let me tell you. The rainbow is the symbol of God's faithfulness.'" It is a faithfulness he and Marge, by this time, understood was infallible.

One response to God's faithfulness for the Hoogebooms was to finance a Calvin scholarship for children of Spectrum employees. When they sold the company in the late 1980s, they decided to take the tithe from their profits and set up a foundation that would focus on educating Christian students long into the future; the Rainbow Foundation was born.

Each year the Rainbow Foundation awards a renewable $2,000 scholarship to one or more Calvin-bound graduates of Kalamazoo Christian High School who have displayed not only academic excellence but also the qualities of a servant leader. "We look for students who take on the jobs that are not glamorous," Marge said, "like the boy who mowed the grass at church for years without pay."

In addition to general scholarships, the foundation also annually grants, through Calvin's music department, the Rainbow Wind Award to an outstanding wind instrument player. "Marge and I probably wouldn't be together if it weren't for the Calvin band," Tom explained. After a rehearsal in November 1960, Marge, an oboe player, complimented Tom on a "gorgeous" euphonium solo he'd played that day, and their romance was set in motion.

More than 35 scholarships later, the rainbow by which Tom and Marge have set their life's course is brighter than ever. "At our last board meeting we noted that we've already given away more than what we'd originally started the foundation with, and we still had more than that left over," said Tom. "That's God's kind of faithfulness."