Rev. B.J. Haan
Rev. B.J. Haan was the first president of Dordt College. His 26-year presidency began in 1956 when he was appointed acting president of the one-year-old institution. In reality, his leadership and association with the college began earlier. In 1947 he was already working with a group of people to explore the idea of starting a Christian college in Northwest Iowa, and in 1951 he became part of a steering committee to help make that happen.
From 1956 to 1963 Haan served as both pastor of First Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center and as acting president of Dordt College. Finally, with responsibilities growing in both church and college, he was elected full-time president in 1963. During those early years, he also served as recruiter, promoter, fundraiser, editor of the Voice, chapel speaker, and much more. He was a visionary and seemingly tireless promoter of the young college. During his presidency enrollment grew from fewer than 100 to 1,200.
One of Haan’s lasting contributions to Dordt College was his work on an educational statement “Scripturally Oriented Higher Education.” The document laid a foundation for the Dordt College curriculum that remains today. It was based on the belief that God is sovereign over all of life; he is Savior and he is also Lord of all. Because of that conviction that every part of life falls under God’s directing hand, Dordt College moved early on to offer a strong core curriculum and also introduce programs in areas such as business, agriculture, engineering, and later computer science. Haan believed that Dordt College needed to be at the forefront of where the action was—that it needed to offer programs to help young Christians prepare for lives of service in a wide range of professions and jobs.
Haan retired in 1982, having devoted much of his professional life to Dordt College. He had helped move the young institution from a small two-year teacher’s college toward a comprehensive institution that could give Christian educational leadership far beyond its campus in Iowa.
To learn more about the history of Dordt under the tenure of the Rev. B.J Haan, see The History of Dordt College and A Zeal for Christian Education: The Memoirs of B.J. Haan.