Flashback
Dean of men
By Richard H. Harms, College Archivist, Heritage Hall

Already in 1926, Johanna Timmer had been appointed dean to assist, advise and counsel female students, for whom there was no on-campus housing. The postwar enrollment surge (503 to 1,466 during the four years after World War II, 63 percent of whom were men at one point) convinced the faculty that men needed similar programs. In response the educational policies committee in November 1949 presented a recommendation that the position of dean of men be created to oversee housing, foster the religious and cultural lives of students, help develop sound study habits and recreational activities, work with the discipline committee, and serve as a counselor to students. The full faculty approved the proposal and recommended three ordained ministers—John Bratt (Bible department), Harold Dekker (a minister in New Jersey) and Henry Van Til (Bible department)—to the board of trustees for the position.

Action was deferred with the onset of the Korean military action, which led to an enrollment drop of 20 percent in two years. When enrollment increased in the fall of 1951 and local congregations had made clear that they would see to the spiritual lives of students, the faculty again asked that the office be created and nominated John De Beer (education department) for the position. The board approved, and De Beer served as dean of students, working with Catherine Van Opynen, the dean of women.

Phil LucasseDe Beer helped to define the position during the next three years, then asked to return to the teaching faculty. Dekker took over the office for the next two years while the college searched for a replacement. In 1956, Philip Lucasse (pictured at left) was brought from a similar position at the University of Michigan to be dean of men. He was responsible for housing, counseling, discipline, introducing chapel speakers and enforcing the parking rules on the streets around the former Franklin campus. During his 13 years as dean, the job expanded as the college realized that there was much more to the students’ lives outside of the classroom than providing housing, meals and discipline. To handle the additional work, the college added staff, such as a law enforcement officer to handle student parking, which was all on city streets. With the opening of the Knollcrest campus, including several on-campus dormitories, programming from the dean’s office increased.

Don BoenderLucasse left as dean in 1969 to complete work on his doctorate, and Howard Rienstra filled the vacancy for one year as a replacement was sought. In 1970 the office was divided in two with William Stob beginning as dean of students and Donald Boender as dean of men, initially responsible for primarily housing-related programs. Over the next two decades, these responsibilities continued to increase. By 1992 a number of staff, reporting to what is now the vice president for student life, performed the functions that the dean had, so that the office was discontinued.