You can forgive a retired couple if the two wish to pull back on the reins a bit. In fact, there’s really nothing to forgive. After many years of work and service, it is understandable for seniors to travel to warmer climates, work on the golf game, and become crossword or Sudoku experts.
Not so for James ’49 and Dolly Hofman Strikwerda ’50.
They follow Calvin College closely and are avid fans of the Knights—in all sports, men’s and women’s. It’s a deep interest that doesn’t abate in the winter, even when the drive to Grand Rapids from their home in Holland can be a little treacherous.
“We don’t go to Florida,” said Dolly. “We just don’t want to miss out on anything.”
That dedication began early on, as James established what is now Strikwerda Family Dentistry in Holland (and includes son Richard and daughter-in-law Susan). Starting in the early 1960s, annual efforts for the Lakeshore Calvin alumni network and the Knollcrest Festival (a fund-raising day on Calvin’s campus) were part of the service pattern.
“I remember James and the guys working hard as they launched rowboats and paddleboats into the Sem Pond. Eager children awaited their turn for a cruise,” Dolly said.
The pond area was decked out like the Netherlands, windmills and all. Flowering plants transported from Zwiep’s greenhouse were for sale. All of the volunteers and their children were wearing traditional Dutch outfits.
“And I can remember being pretty happy when the college discontinued that part of the festival because of legal concerns. Those boats were a lot of work,” chuckled James.
Building the chapter’s scholarship fund was always an important emphasis, and James was the chapter’s treasurer for decades.
Local efforts grew into representational efforts on campus, as James served on both the alumni association board and the board of trustees. Dolly also served as an alumni association board member.
When one reviews the dedication program for the first Calvin Fieldhouse in 1964 and the sparkling new Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex in 2009, there is one name that’s listed on both: James Strikwerda—the first time as the alumni association’s representative and the second time as donor for the Strikwerda Outdoor Tennis Center.
All those years in between, the Strikwerdas have been working for and supporting Calvin College. Their three children—Rich ’78, Mary ’80 and Cheryl ’83—are all Calvin graduates, as are their spouses (Susan ’79, Jerry ’81 and Greg ’84). Two grandchildren—Amy ’07 and Rachel ’10—are also grads, and two other grandchildren, James and John, are currently studying at Calvin. Kent and Mark are enrolled for 2012.
Their inspiration to be engaged with Calvin came from different experiences as students: James was a commuter from Grand Rapids, and Dolly was living in the dorm, far away from her family’s farm in Alberta.
“We walked west from home to go to the Christian high school,” said James, “and then we walked east from home to go to Calvin College.”
James and Dolly both took a full load of classes and worked many hours to make ends meet—James at East End Creamery and Dolly doing housework for a local family.
Thus, they never met as students at Calvin; mutual friends introduced them later while Dolly was teaching third grade at Oakdale Christian School and James was a dental student at the University of Michigan.
“You would have thought we’d run across each other during those years, perhaps at the Beehive on Wealthy Street, east of Fuller, the hamburg joint we all frequented,” James said.
“It turned out that from my Oakdale classroom windows I could see a lady hanging out laundry. Never did I imagine she would be my mother-in-law,” Dolly recalled.
Their courtship took a bit of detour as James was called into service during the Korean War. There were many letters written, sent and read in those 16 months apart.
“I was first assigned to do dental work in the POW camps in the Korean DMZ,” said James. “My first patients were Chinese or Korean POWs.”
James proposed to Dolly on a long-distance phone call from Japan during a leave from the war zone.
They got married in Alberta upon James’s return from Korea and spent the first six months of their life together at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, with James completing his service requirement in the military and Dolly teaching reading-challenged GIs, with military police stationed outside the door.
Then, their long tenure in Holland began, with virtually all of those years engaged in some service to alma mater.
“We know that Calvin provides a good, solid Christian education,” said James. “It was that way for us. We wanted that for our kids and now our grandkids—and we want Calvin to draw in many others as well.”
“Calvin was my first Christian school experience,” said Dolly. “When I arrived on campus, I can still remember my reaction as ‘Wow!’ Nothing has happened in the many years since to change that feeling.”
The Strikwerda family legacy has continued into the student body today, as grandson James Randall, a junior, is one of the two student leaders of K4L (“Knights for Life”), the student organization of the Calvin Alumni Association.
“We feel that the education we received and our association with Calvin College has been a great inspiration and influence in our lives,” said Dolly. “Our prayer is that Calvin will continue to prepare future students for special service as they embark into God’s great world.”