Dordt College News

Adamses honored upon retirement

May 13, 2010

In April, Dr. Charles and Dr. Pamela Adams were both honored for their years of service to Dordt College. Both were given emeritus status at a board/faculty dinner celebrating their retirement.

The Adamses, together, taught at Dordt College for more than fifty years. Charles began teaching—and began the engineering program—in 1979. Pam began teaching in the education department in 1988.

“I first met Charles when he was teaching at Eastern Christian High. After our conversation I remember thinking, ‘That’s the kind of person we should bring into the Dordt College faculty,’” recalls former president Dr. John Hulst, who, throughout his presidency, appreciated Charles’ perspective-driven leadership.

Charles served as chair of the engineering department, chair of the faculty, and Dean of the Natural Sciences. He wrote numerous Plumblines, which were recorded and broadcast on Dordt’s radio station, KDCR, in which he tried to show concretely what difference it makes to think and live as a Christian. He also gave many lectures on technology.

Charles AdamsPam served as chair of the education department and Director of Graduate Education in addition to teaching education classes. She also was a regular contributor to the Christian Educator’s Journal.

Charles and Pam have been on leave since February of 2008, when they were involved in a serious car accident in which they sustained multiple injuries, including brain injuries. After months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, they now live in retirement in their home in Sioux Center.

“I clearly remember a comment made by Pam when I visited with both Charles and Pam in the hospital,” says Dr. Rockne McCarthy, the Vice President for Academic Affairs during many of the years they taught. “I think in many ways it summarizes the way they view their lives together and their calling. Pam indicated that the accident threatened their great joy in serving Dordt and in contributing to building the kingdom. For both of them, their work with students and colleagues, their research and writing, and their leadership roles on campus have been an expression of their deep commitment to Christian education and Dordt College.”

Both Charles and Pam Adams contributed much to Dordt College and both have had a significant impact on the students they taught.

Charles’ colleagues and former students point to Colossians 1:15-17 as a passage that embodied for him—and now for them—what it meant to be an engineer: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers Pam Adamsor authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

“He wanted us to acknowledge that all things are sustained and held together by God. Charles always placed a strong emphasis on the antithesis,” says colleague and former student Dr. Ethan Brue. “You’re either going to serve the Lord or idols. There’s no in between,” he’d say often. That is Charles’ legacy to his students.

“It was my honor to serve with Charles on the Academic Council,” says McCarthy. “I could always count on him to ask prospective faculty critical questions related to their Christian perspective on teaching, learning, and scholarship. He was always willing to write the first draft of an academic initiative or issue, whether it be biotechnology, academic organization, or collegiate sports. His depth of foundational thinking allowed him to range over such a wide field of issues without becoming superficial or trite. And his gentle humor often made tedious meetings more bearable.”

Pam was as committed to helping her students develop a Christian understanding of their study as Charles was, notes McCarthy. “She worked tirelessly to improve student teaching and the quality of primary and secondary education in Northwest Iowa and beyond. Her organizational abilities, high professional standards, and concern for assisting graduate students in achieving their goals resulted in a stronger and more vibrant graduate education program.” 

“When there was a task to be done, Pam was there to volunteer. She took on the role of chair of the department and later Director of Graduate Education when they needed to be filled. She was always willing to do more than her share,” says colleague Dr. Dennis Vander Plaats.

Pam was also appreciated for her compassionate care for her students. She got to know them well and cared deeply about their learning.

“Charles and Pam came to Dordt with a dream of witnessing with their lives and work to the power of a comprehensive view of Christian commitment and service,” says McCarthy. “While the tragic accident cut short their careers at the college, their legacy continues in the lives of their students and in the inspiration they’ve provided to colleagues who continue to work in the education and engineering departments and throughout the college.”  

In the words of former students

Dr. Adams was easily one of my favorite professors at Dordt. Many professors are either intelligent or enjoyable to spend time with, teach well or challenge and exhort their students to follow Christ deeply and passionately. But I’ve seen Dr. Charles and Dr. Pamela Adams were honored for their many years of teaching and service to Dordt College and its students at an end-of-the-year dinner with employees and the Board of Trustees.  In a video tribute, colleagues and students expressed their thanks and appreciation for decades of  dedicated service.evidence of each of those in Dr. Adams’ life.

His teaching was among some of the most lucid and organized of any courses I’ve taken.

His classes were a continual challenge and required significant self-motivation. He was never content with students simply regurgitating either problem-solving techniques or philosophical ideas. One exam question that I recall went something to the effect of, “Explain voltage in a way that a fourth-grader could understand it.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget his admonition to freshmen engineers: “Do not worry about tomorrow [or keeping a 4.0]. Each day has enough worries of its own.” Remembering that Jesus’ words have application to me, today, has helped me through many life challenges.

He never (in my experience) made his students feel like they were beneath him.

Dr. Adams always challenged our thinking. He wasn’t willing to follow the crowd and think like the status quo. He strove to find Truth, even when many students would disagree.

He challenged me deeply about what it means to do my work as a Christian: I can’t leave my loyalty to Christ at the doorposts of my employer nor can I assume that being faithful to my King only applies to “spiritual” things or direct ministry. Following Christ is something that affects everything I do, and part of my calling as a Christian is to understand what that is.

David Alan Hjelle (2003)

Professor Adams was one of my favorite professors. She was so knowledgeable and had such a love for children’s literature. I remember her as being consistent, fair, and caring. Professor Adams loved God. This was very evident through her teaching and her interaction with her students.

What I remember most about Pam was when, as a sophomore, I took a test in her class. After the test, I realized that I had totally messed up an answer to one of the questions. Being the perfectionist that I am, I was devastated, so I went to her to talk to her about it. I ended up bawling! She gave me a big hug and a smile and then gave me my test right there in her office. She let me erase my answer to that question and gave me ten minutes to redo it. I will never forget that measure of grace and still think about it from time to time when I’m teaching my first graders.

Pam had a tremendous impact on how I strive to be the best Christian teacher I can.  I wish her God’s richest blessings in her retirement.

Andrea (Leys) Wieringa (1993)

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