Faith and Learning Award Recipient:
As a former student and colleague of Bernie Ten Broek, John Beebe ‘64 credits Ten Broek for introducing him for the first time to faith-integrated science.
"I came from a six-day, 24-hour creation background and when I came to Calvin in the 1960s he was the first person who demonstrated that it was possible to retain your faith and also examine developing concepts in science," said Beebe. "He always critically examined scientific evidence in terms of how it supported theories, but the fact that he integrated the two was something new and exciting to me."
Bridging the gap between faith and science was a focal point of Ten Broek’s 34-year career as a biology professor at Calvin. For his dedicated work, Ten Broek, a 1949 Calvin graduate, was recently honored as the 10th recipient of the Calvin Alumni Association’s 2001 Faith and Learning Award, which is based on excellence in teaching, spiritual impact, concern for students and lasting influence.
And Beebe wasn’t the only student Ten Broek affected in such way.
In support of Ten Broek’s nomination, former student Paul Adams ‘62 wrote: "I am deeply grateful to Dr. Ten Broek for encouraging me to expand my Christian perspective and consider a faith that integrated evolutionary science. I remember the joyous freedom that I experienced as the anti-evolutionary burden began to be lifted from me. All of the intellectual problems were not instantaneously resolved, of course, but Dr. Ten Broek started me on a journey that has become a life-long pursuit."
Adams, associate professor of biology at University of Michigan-Flint, has himself focused on bridging the gap between faith and science as Ten Broek did, but on a secular campus.
"The favorite course that I teach on my secular campus is entitled, ‘The Evolution Controversy,’ in which historical, philosophical, biblical and scientific issues concerning evolution are examined," he wrote. "I am thus returning the favor to my Christian students and also challenging my secular students not to reject a religious perspective for scientific reasons."
Ten Broek’s perspective launched many Calvin alumni into science-related careers.
While this integration of faith and science was considered revolutionary at the time, so too was Ten Broek’s approach to the scientific matters of biology.
He began his teaching career at Calvin in 1955, following six years as a science teacher at Western Christian High School in Hull, Iowa.
"It was a time when biology was in the midst of a huge revolution," said Hessel ("Bud") Bouma ‘72, Calvin biology professor and former student of Ten Broek. "The field was just beginning major breakthroughs in genetics and the increasing recognition of DNA as genetic material."
Ten Broek was the first to push the department to look forward. Colleagues Alan Gebben, Al Bratt, Gordon Van Harn and Beverly Klooster were also instrumental in redirecting the department at that time.
"What he really did was bring biology up to date," said Bouma. "He came into a situation that would be like coming into a math department where half the department is saying that computers aren’t going anywhere and pushing to integrate them anyway.
"Bernie set the stage. He recruited some very good individuals and helped lead the revolution in genetics at Calvin," he said. "He was very instrumental in curriculum development and helped lay the groundwork for the kind of research that is going on now in the department."
In the late 1960s Ten Broek was heavily involved in the design of the Science Building on the Knollcrest Campus.
"He was very concerned with making that building functional for students," said Beebe.
Ten Broek himself believes that he is remembered as a tough teacher.
"I was always trying to do my best for the students," he said. "But there were always those students who thought it was way too hard. Many of them went on to get their Ph.D.s and have come back to remind me how tough they thought it was. They are appreciative too."
As for the award, Ten Broek is honored by the recognition.
"I didn’t preach about the Bible in science," he said. "It just was a natural thing to put the two together."
So natural in fact that it was seamless in his teaching, Bouma said.
"There was no separation there whatsoever," he said. "That you could be a good scientist and a good Christian was absolute to Bernie."
Since his retirement in 1989, Ten Broek and his wife, Marilynn, have spent time traveling, including Elderhostel trips which have incorporated service projects. The Ten Broeks have been on a few archaeological digs which included reconstructing ruins in the Southwest and to Rhode Island for restoration work on a lighthouse.
They hope to continue such projects in the future as well as spending more time with their four children and 10 grandchildren.
Ten Broek also does a lot of walking which gives him time to reflect. "I am very honored for myself and the biology department to be getting this award," he said. "Over the years I have worked with many fine people in the biology department."