“A deep warmth and a spontaneous smile come to me each time I think about this award,” said Dr. Michael Vander Weele ’73, professor of English at Trinity since 1986 and the 2011 Alumnus of the Year. “It is humbling considering the colleagues and students I have been able to work alongside.”
Vander Weele’s connection with Trinity began when his father Ed became a professor of education and dean of students in 1968. Vander Weele enrolled as a student the next year. His sisters and brother attended Trinity as did his late wife Albertena ’74, who served as director of the College’s Cooper Career Center from 2000-2006. Their daughter, Corenna Roozeboom, graduated in 2007.
Vander Weele, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, finds great satisfaction as a professor in watching students discover their “deep joy” as they discover their talents and paths.
Teaching is his calling, but learning nurtures it. Vander Weele said he “loves nothing more than to be a student in the summer.” Summer “vacation” normally finds the professor and perpetual student attending education summits or conducting research. On a research grant this summer, Vander Weele studied Homer, Hesiod, and Rhetorical Aesthetics in the Ancient Mediterranean World, an offshoot of his work last summer at the Seminar on Hesiod and the Homeric Songs.
“It is good to be on the other side of the classroom once in awhile,” he said.
Vander Weele was married in July to Mary McKinstry, a nurse practitioner at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital.
From alumna Allison Backous ’07…
“Dr. Michael Vander Weele is truly one of the best men I have known. Having taken a class with him every semester I was at Trinity, while also serving as his teaching assistant, I came to understand that I was learning from someone whose mind and heart were not only sharp gifts for the kingdom, but true avenues of grace in my life. Dr. Vander Weele talks about Augustine and Marilynne Robinson, Dante and Simone Weil, with an ease that is both brilliant and familiar. He treats writers from across the ages like they are old friends at coffee hour, with a compassionate, endearing curiosity. His love for people, and the ways we read and talk with each other, has shaped me in indescribable ways, and I only hope that my own writing and teaching mirrors his own.”
Honorary alumni award recipients include:
Sandy Carra, former administrative assistant in Trinity’s student development office from 1996-2003, then part time in various departments until 2008. Read more…
Grace Huitsing, assistant, then associate, professor of English and education from 1968-1987. Read more…
Dean and Ruth Koldenhoven, friends of the College. Dean served as the mayor of Palos Heights from 1997-2001. Read more…
Sandy Carra, honorary alumna of the year
Sandy Carra started working for Trinity in 1996 as the administrative assistant for Ginny Carpenter, currently vice president for student development. After retiring in 2003, Carra returned part-time and substituted as an administrative assistant in various departments until 2008.
As a charter member of the College’s Staff Council, Carra served as chair, helping pass official bylaws, researching job positions and salaries of other institutions, and advocating for staff professional development.
“The experience of working at Trinity enriched my life in a spiritual sense,” said Carra. “I appreciated working with fellow Christians and people who live the Gospel, because it is so embedded in their everyday lives.”
Her contact with students through her position was what Carra most enjoyed, and she hopes to be remembered by alumni as a “listener,” someone who knew where students were from and what they hoped to achieve.
Carra has 12 grandchildren, and she and her husband John are members of Saint Elizabeth Seton in Orland Hills, Illinois.
From Ginny Carpenter, vice president for student development
“Sandy Carra became the assistant in the student development office during a time when there was much transition in the department. Besides her excellent organizational skills and attention to process, planning, and perfection, Sandy brought her deep care for others and an infectious sense of humor to an office that was seeking to be student-centered. Sandy was like a magnet—students stopped by just to say hi and in return received a hearty laugh and a heaping dose of encouragement. In looking back, I’m reminded of how instrumental Sandy was in fostering a friendly, caring community for Trinity students, staff, and faculty.”
Grace Huitsing, honorary alumna of the year
Grace Huitsing is called to teach.
She began at Illiana Christian High School soon after it opened and then taught at Grand Rapids Christian High School for 20 years. Sensing God leading her to switch to higher education, Huitsing began teaching at Trinity in 1968 as an assistant professor of English and education and retired as an associate professor in 1987.
One of her greatest joys while at Trinity was the time spent teaching and mentoring six students from Vietnam. One of those students, Hung Nguyen, a scientist at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, established the Violet and Hung Nguyen Mathematics Scholarship in 2008.
Of her time at Trinity, Huitsing said, “I give praise to God for the opportunity to help students on their way to serving further in the kingdom.”
After her retirement from Trinity, the consummate teacher spent the next 11 summers in China working with Chinese teachers of English through the English Language Institute/China (ELIC). Today she teaches English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) twice each week through Wheaton CRC and World Relief.
From alumna Yvette (Ho) Madany ’85
“When I think of Professor Huitsing, I think of her big, warm smile. She was never distant, always approachable. She represented Trinity’s friendly learning atmosphere. I am thankful that she was one of my English professors; she taught me well, and I have now written a book and edit scripts in English. Professor Huitsing also stood out because of her commitment to teach English in China. As a Chinese person, I was especially appreciative of her efforts. She exemplified Christian caring.”
From former Professor of Philosophy Dr. Calvin Seerveld
“Grace Huitsing was a gem of a colleague. Her ever-welcoming smile, always pitching in quietly on the committee work behind the scenes, and her gentle teaching style were exemplary for Trinity’s commitment to higher Christian education. And her dedicated work in China was going more than the extra mile of service. Grace lived up to her name: she was a steady blessing to all of us—students, teachers, and administrators at Trinity, a deep source of encouragement through good and through hard times. I think of her as the resourceful woman of Proverbs 31:10-31.”
Dean and Ruth Koldenhoven, honorary alumni of the year
Dean and Ruth Koldenhoven’s connection to Trinity began with Ruth’s uncle Dr. George DeJong, who was one of the original board members, while Dean walked door to door in the neighborhood collecting donations to start the College. Dean recalls one neighbor who retrieved a Koops Mustard jar from her cupboard that contained $8.76 that she had saved for Trinity from her social security checks.
Since those early days, Dean, who was the mayor of Palos Heights from 1997-2001 and worked in the bricklaying industry for 42 years, has maintained close ties with Trinity. Besides gifts to the College, the Koldenhovens attend events on campus, and Dean has spoken to students in communication arts, psychology, and sociology classes.
Dean is a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and received a special recognition award from the Arab American League. He will be presenting “Religious Tolerance: The Mosque Controversy” on October 31 at 7 p.m. in the Ozinga Chapel as part of Trinity’s annual WorldView series.
Ruth worked as a job coach at Elim Christian Services for 15 years and has worked at their church library and with a church program for mentally disabled students. The Koldenhovens have been members of Palos Christian Reformed Church for 39 years.
Dean appreciates Trinity’s various levels of involvement with Palos Heights. “Trinity has done a great job of witnessing to the community,” he said.
From President Steve Timmermans, Ph.D.
“Dean and Ruth have been long-time friends of the College. Ruth’s work at Elim was a natural bridge to Trinity and our special education program. Dean’s association with the College has been multifaceted. One of the best memories I have of Dean is the time he was part of a Campus Compact grant award whereby Trinity students worked in partnership with the city of Robbins, Illinois, seeking to strengthen its infrastructure. Dean’s awareness of the political structures and his passion for helping people proved to be indispensible to the project.”