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FLASHBACK: The reluctant president—twice

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After the college's first president, John Hiemenga left the campus in 1925 to return to the parish ministry, the Board of Trustees asked faculty member Johannes Broene to accept a one-year appointment as interim president. Born in Muskegon, Mich., and raised in a series of Christian Reformed parsonages, Broene had taught in Christian schools in Paterson, N.J. and Chicago, Ill., and had just earned a master's degree from Clark University when he joined the faculty of John Calvin Junior College in 1908. Although his areas of specialty were philosophy and education he also taught classes in history, civics, government, chemistry and psychology.

An accomplished classroom instructor and scholar, Broene did not feel that he had the appropriate skills to be president. Because of the board's persistence, he reluctantly agreed to serve one year, was re-appointed the next year, and ultimately served until the end of 1929. During his presidency the school saw a modest increase in enrollment and received accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. He was particularly skilled at finding a middle ground when points of disagreement about college operations divided the board and the faculty. Yet, Broene never felt comfortable with the administrative and fund-raising duties attached to the office and the board finally yielded to his repeated requests to be released from the appointment so that he could return to the classroom. His accomplishments as an instructor and scholar were such that both Harvard and Clark universities offered Broene positions, but he declined all offers.

During the 1930s the board and faculty struggled over the specifics of running the college, particularly with what was seen as an ever-increasing presence of worldliness among the students. Following mandates from the denomination and the board, President Ralph Stob asked the faculty to enforce rules against theater going, and the like. The faculty refused, seeing such action as both demeaning and impossible to do since students themselves saw nothing wrong with such behavior. The gulf between faculty and president, supported by the trustees, grew wider on this matter so that Stob did not seek reappointment as president in 1939. With the board and faculty far apart, finding a presidential candidate to replace Stob, acceptable to both, was impossible. Instead the board again turned to Broene. He accepted only after it was clearly understood that the appointment would be limited to one year. During that year he again provided his quiet leadership that brought the trustees and faculty to the point of agreeing on a candidate, Henry Schultze.

Shultze guided the college through WW II and the surge of growth during the post war years. Broene returned to the classroom and retired in 1945 at the age of 70. He continued teaching in retirement until early 1951. He died in 1967, four years after his wife, Josie Kleinhuizen.

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