Dordt College News

Five professors retiring from Dordt College

May 14, 2012

Dordt College said farewell to five professors at the end of the academic year. All had their own unique and personal commitment to both their profession and their students. The five retiring are Dr. James Schaap, professor of English; Dr. Robert Hilbelink, professor of business and accounting; Dr. Karen De Mol, professor of music; Dr. Keith Sewell, professor of history; and Dr. Socorro Woodbury, professor of foreign language.

James Schaap
During his 36 years of teaching English at Dordt College, what Schaap enjoyed most was helping students explore and connect to literature. “I want students to understand that studying literature is not just school work, it’s about life,” he said. He also worked hard to instill in his students a sense of awe for God, the Creator. “I want my students to be awed by the sure knowledge that he alone is God,” Schaap said.

Schaap is the author of 23 books and several short stories. His work has received awards from Christianity Today, Evangelical Press Association, Associated Church Press, Best Christian Writing, and the Christy Award. He plans to continue writing during his retirement, and will continue writing in his blog found at  

Robert Hilbelink
For 33 years, Hilbelink devoted himself to preparing his students for a future as Christians working in business and accounting. “I remember seeing a cartoon of students with the top of their heads tilted open so that knowledge could be poured in. That’s more how teaching was done when I started teaching. I’d talk for 50 minutes while the students took notes.” He gradually came to embrace a newer kind of teaching where students worked in groups and learned from one another – a model that taught them people skills in a more realistic workplace environment, he believes.

Hilbelink began his teaching career at Dordt in 1979, after several years as a CPA with his owning small accounting business in Wisconsin. He has taught mostly accounting and income tax classes and played an important role in helping place many Dordt College alumni in major accounting firms.

Karen DeMol
DeMol has made an important contribution to the Dordt College community for 28 years. Her love for music and her commitment to living and teaching from a Calvinistic perspective earned her the 2011 John Calvin Award from Dordt College. For DeMol, her work at Dordt College was not just about teaching music but about loving the craft and the students. “If you only love your subject, you won’t be able to communicate in a way that lights their fire,” she said. “And if you only love your students, your teaching won’t be inspiring and rigorous.”

DeMol has taught Music Theory, Form and Analysis, Music Literature, and Private Clarinet, and has served as the music department chair since 1985. She also served as a member on a number of committees and as chair of the faculty assembly for two terms.

Keith Sewell
One of Sewell’s main goals in teaching history for the past 14 years has been to show students how assumptions and unspoken principles have shaped historical events, and then to challenge students’ connections between the events of today and the events of the past. “I like to dislodge students from convenient assumptions and drive them to historical thinking,” he said. In teaching about events such as the Reformation, he helped students gain a new understanding of the religion that shapes their education.

Sewell has taught European and East Asian history. He has also contributed several articles to Pro Rege and other academic journals. This summer he will move to Australia where he hopes to finish writing three books about the origins of the First World War, the character of evangelicalism, and the historical roots of divergent varieties of Calvinism.

Socorro Woodbury
Throughout her 10 years at Dordt College, Woodbury devoted herself to her students and developing their love for Spanish. In her classes, she tried to help students understand what it was like to live in a different country and experience a different culture. “One reason to learn another language is to be able to embrace the stranger and be hospitable,” Woodbury said.

A native of Honduras, Woodbury’s unique understanding of different cultures led to her develop several of Dordt College’s semester-long and summer off-campus programs, as well as a Spanish-language news program that airs on the college radio station, KDCR 88.5 FM.

Watch videos of each retiring professor on Dordt College’s YouTube channel at

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