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FLASHBACK: The first college faculty member with a Ph.D.

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In 1908 among the first graduates of John Calvin Junior College were several people who later returned to join the college faculty. Of these, Peter Hoekstra was the first to return with a doctorate (Gerhardus Vos was the first seminary faculty member with a doctorate in 1888). Hoekstra began his 36-year faculty career at Calvin in 1918, as the school was about to become a four-year program. A scholar of ability, Hoekstra, or "Petie" as he was popularly known but never to his face, early had demonstrated his academic inclination by scoring the highest marks in U.S. history on his 1899 graduation exams from District 4 school, in Fillmore Township, Allegan County.

Born in 1884, the son of a Christian Reformed minister, Hoekstra attended the prep school and then the junior college that became Grand Rapids Christian High School and Calvin College, respectively. The junior college curriculum had been specifically designed to prepare students for entrance into the University of Michigan, and Hoekstra completed his undergraduate studies in Ann Arbor. His abilities and accomplishments were such that he set a high standard for subsequent Calvin students at the university. Graduating in 1910, he returned to Ann Arbor the next year for his master's in history, winning a sought after teaching assistantship. With a master's degree in hand, he enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania to work toward a doctorate in the fall of 1912. Because of his teaching competence, Hoekstra again won teaching assistantships during the first two years of his doctoral studies. He spent the 1913-14 academic year in the Netherlands researching Dutch-American relations. His studies and plans to research in Paris were halted when he was forced to leave Europe at the outbreak of WWI. He completed his dissertation in 1915 and taught for three years at Lehigh University in South Bethlehem, Pa.

Except for a three year period in the late 1920's when John Bos assisted, Hoekstra taught all the history and political science classes at Calvin until 1939 when Richard Drost joined him. He held faculty, staff and students to the same high and absolute standard that he applied to himself. He was an accomplished scholar with a serious, almost grave demeanor in the classroom. According to John Timmerman, "His dry ironic wit did not spare oafs. If you were lazy, he made you feel ashamed; if you were stupid, he did not mark on effort."

In addition to teaching he continued researching and writing and beginning November 1, 1928, until retirement in the spring of 1954, he served as the faculty secretary, recording all the minutes and conducting the faculty's correspondence. An assiduous person he took the assignment as faculty secretary very seriously and over the years bridled at any suggestion that the minutes being read might need amending. In addition he served on the Educational Policies Committee for ten years and on the Discipline Committee for 18 years. On the Discipline Committee, which he most often served as the chair, he was a particularly skilled and relentless questioner able to get to the bottom of student misdeeds.

Hoekstra married Wilhelmina Zaagman in 1920 and they had one son, Justin, who became a biochemist. Hoekstra retired from the faculty in 1954 and died 12 years later.

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