Remarks of David De Jong at Dedication May 5, 2005,
It was in 1965 that professor Calvin Seerveld traveled to Denver to persuade my father to become the first President of Trinity Christian College. Trinity was a tiny unaccredited two year junior college, but had big plans to become a four year institution granting Bachelor's degrees in numerous majors. Dad jumped at the idea of helping to build a major institution of Reformed higher education in the Chicago area. He had always believed and taught that creation in its entirety was subject to the redeeming power of Christ, and he was excited by the real life challenge of putting that belief into practice at Trinity. From that moment until his death on April 10, 2003, he harbored deep and abiding love for the mission and life of Trinity. First as President, then as Professor, and then as advisor to later Trinity Presidents, as well as to countless students over the years, dad's heart and hand were always open to Trinity. Each expansion and enrichment of curriculum was his cause for celebration, and he watched Trinity's physical expansion with admiration and gratitude. It gave him joy in later life to witness the fulfillment of those early dreams for Trinity, a testament, as he saw it, to God's gracious power to redeem and transform all of reality. All three of his sons attended Trinity and met their wives there. Several of his grandchildren are also Trinity alumni.
A different path led dad to Elim Christian Services, a journey that began on November 26, 1978, the day his third grandchild Connor was born to Gwen and me. Brimming with physical health and vitality, Connor began to exhibit delay in language development, and other, more subtle difficulties. One beautiful September day in 1982 after exhaustive testing at Evanston Hospital, we learned that Connor was one of God's special children. Connor had been given the condition of autism.
The entire De Jong family, with dad at our head, rushed to support Connor, Gwen and me, which they have been doing ever since. We all agreed for many good reasons that Elim would be the place for Connor's education. During his ensuing sixteen years as an Elim student beginning in 1984, dad became progressively drawn into, and then completely one with Elim's life and work. He frequently picked Connor up from school and began to get to know Elim staff, students and clients. More than anything, it was the loving attitude of these people who worked at Elim toward students and clients which struck dad, and gradually infused him with a deep passion for Elim's place and mission.
In 1988 and 1989 dad served as Elim's interim executive director during a critical moment in the history of the institution. He always looked back on that time as among the most meaningful in his long career. Later, as Elim's pastoral consultant, he was refreshed and blessed by the regular Thursday evening worship services he led at Kamp Cottage. Dad welcomed and reveled in the exuberant growth of Elim throughout the 90's. As you might imagine, Elim's strides in the teaching of autistic students was particularly special to him.
Most of all, he always recognized the great privilege it was to serve the children and adults at Elim. George Groen, dad's successor as executive director at Elim, often called the people served by Elim "God's royalty." As George told it, God had specially chosen Elim's students and clients not only to be served by us, but also themselves to serve us as exemplars of purity, honesty and the acceptance of God's will in their lives. These people were God's great royal gift to us. Like George, dad clearly saw that Elim's students and clients brought out the best in the rest of us, kindling in us a desire to serve and contribute to them.
Dad would be very proud this evening, deeply honored to have the Center for Special Education named for him. However, his main source of joy at this moment would be for the future promise of the Center itself. You see, dad dreamed and talked about and advocated for such a venture for many years. His "holy pride" for Trinity and for Elim, was great. His dream for Trinity was that it become, as he put it, a "Harvard of the Midwest" and Elim's future was to be a "Mayo Clinic of the Midwest" in special education. These weren't just empty and grandiose words for dadChe really believed it could happen with God's grace, if Trinity and Elim worked together to make it a reality. Because his lifelong vision was for an outward looking, progressive, Calvinist form of higher and special education, he believed that the Trinity-Elim partnership launched tonight could literally transform Reformed Christian higher and special education. Tonight that vision has become the implemented policy of Trinity Christian College and Elim Christian Services, under the leadership of new visionaries, Presidents Steve Timmermans and Bill Lodewyk. The choice of Patti Powell as the Director of the new Center would have delighted my father. A new Trinity-Elim partnership filled with great promise is now a reality. With God's help, the Alexander De Jong Center for Special Education will be a light and a witness of the transforming power of Jesus Christ.