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Dordt College News

President Emeritus Dr. John B. Hulst passes away

February 8, 2013

Dr. John B. Hulst, the second president of Dordt College, died on Friday, February 8, 2013, in Pella, Iowa. Hulst was 83 years old.

“The importance of John’s leadership to Dordt College and the kingdom of God throughout the world has been incredible,” said President Erik Hoekstra. “John’s engaging mind, his servant’s heart, his encouraging spirit, and his tireless work ethic have been a gift to many. We give thanks and praise to God for his life, and we pray for those closest to him as they mourn his earthly passing and celebrate his reunion with Christ, John’s sure Savior, Redeemer, Defender, and Friend. ”

During his tenure as president of Dordt College, Hulst helped put in place a strong faculty development program so that Dordt’s academic program would prepare students well for their future lives and professions. He broadened Dordt’s and its students’ connections to people and institutions around the world, bringing in students and professors from other cultures and expanding the available options for off campus programs.

Also during his tenure, Dordt’s master of education program began, the college received its first $1 million gift, enrollment grew again, the percentage of faculty with Ph.D.s increased, a bold campus plan began to be implemented, and new technology was embraced.

“John Hulst leaves behind family, friends, and institutions that will forever remember his life and the Christian inspiration he provided in so many ways and on so many occasions,” said Dr. Rockne McCarthy, Dordt’s vice president for academic affairs during Hulst’s presidency. “A faithful life well lived—what more could any of us desire for ourselves and from others in the challenging times in which we live?”

Hulst was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but he spent much of his adult life in Iowa.

Raised and later ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, Hulst remained a CRC pastor throughout his life. He served two churches in Northwest Iowa, Ireton Christian Reformed Church and First Christian Reformed Church in Orange City, and one in Michigan, Twelfth Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Jenison, before he began teaching theology at Dordt College in 1968.

Hulst remained associate pastor at First Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center throughout his years at Dordt and preached regularly well into his retirement. He was named one of two Distinguished Alumni of Calvin Theological Seminary in 2011 for “bringing unusual credit to their alma mater by their distinction in Christian ministry.”

Dordt College held a special place in the hearts and lives of John and his wife, Louise, who served the college for many years as librarian. Over the years, Hulst moved from theology professor to campus pastor to dean of students to president. He served as president from 1982 to 1996, a time of significant growth and maturing in Dordt College history.

The college honored the Hulsts in 2002, naming the renovated library the John and Louise Hulst Library.

Hulst dedicated his life to helping provide a foundation, especially for young people, for living a life of Christian discipleship. Like his predecessor the late Rev. B.J. Haan, he had a deep passion for developing and promoting a biblically Reformed perspective on life, a perspective that acknowledges that because God is sovereign over all of life, Christians should honor and obey him in everything they do.

Hulst was particularly committed to Christian education, but he also worked tirelessly to promote a Christian understanding of politics and daily living. He helped found NACPA (the National Association for Christian Political Action) in the 1970s and remained an ardent supporter of its offshoot, the Center for Public Justice, a national Christian civic education and public policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

For many years, Hulst was actively involved in the Reformed Ecumenical Council, an international association of Reformed churches. He was a leader of the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education, a worldwide agency committed to fostering integral Christian higher education and scholarship. He was an advocate for and board member of the Institute for Christian Studies, a Christian graduate school in Toronto, Ontario; and he was a driving force behind ARIHE (the Association for Reformed Institutions of Higher Education), now ARCU (Association of Reformed Colleges and Universities), an effort to establish a Reformed university in North America.

“I’m sure ARIHE would not have survived without his leadership,” said former student and colleague Dr. Harry Fernhout, president of The King’s University College in Edmonton, Alberta.

A short meditation by Hulst in the latest issue of Perspectives sums up his deep faith and is a fitting benediction to his life: http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=9005.

Hulst is survived by his wife, Louise (Jacoby) Hulst of Pella; and three daughters: Lizbeth Hulst of San Jose, California; Susan and Jim De Young of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Mary Hulst of Pella; his grandchildren; one brother and one sister.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, February 16, 2013, at Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.

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