Dordt College News

One generation calls to the next

December 2, 2013

While my grandfather never went to college, he loved Dordt. His wife (class of ’59) went to Dordt, and so did all six of his children, along with four sons-in-law. At every family gathering, he would make sure to put in multiple plugs for the college to his 15 grandchildren, and he watched proudly as seven of us (so far) complied. He never missed a chance to ask us, while we were still in elementary school, whether we were going to Dordt, and he loved to remind us what a great school it is. He had limited knowledge of any other school, and very little with which to compare Dordt, but as far as he could tell, there was no need to look any farther. Dordt College was the place to go.

My cousins and I would joke about what horrible thing might happen were we to decide against Dordt College, but most of us also swore we’d never attend the “family school.” And yet, for most of us, the seemingly inevitable happened, and we came to Dordt College. 

Despite our grumbling, despite our desire to rebel against the family status quo, despite wondering if Grandpa would ever stop asking us about Dordt, we’re glad we came. We’re glad we’ve been able to experience the same excellent education, the same beautiful community, the same faithful God that our cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandmother experienced at Dordt. And we’re glad we’ve been able to have these experiences that Grandpa, despite never having come to college, knew we would find and come to appreciate here.

Freshman Kylie Van Roekel grew up knowing about Dordt College. Her family visited campus often, holding Christmas parties in the bowling alley in the Campus Center, enjoying the indoor waterslides at the All Seasons Center and playing basketball in the Rec Center.  Three of her grandparents attended Dordt, and her parents told stories about how they met and fell in love at Dordt. From a young age, Van Roekel decided that she, too, would attend the school. 

When it came time for her to actually decide on a college, she said, the decision wasn’t so easy. Her parents talked about their good experiences at Dordt and told her about the importance and benefits of being part of a Christian community, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to break tradition or follow in their footsteps. 

In the end, Van Roekel decided to attend Dordt, and she's come to appreciate her parents’ loyalty to Dordt. She has enjoyed getting to know children of her parents’ college friends, and she has enjoyed the Christian community on campus.

“The ever-present smile or hello of one passing student to another is a staple on campus that extends through the generations at Dordt,” said Van Roekel.

Van Roekel’s story is shared by many “legacy” students at Dordt College, but many would also echo Senior Sarah Kaemingk, who said, “It isn’t only that my parents went here and encouraged me to do the same, it’s that Dordt College is an amazing and excellent college and just happens to be the place my parents attended as well.”

This fall, 35 percent of incoming freshmen are children of alumni, a number that has stayed fairly steady for the past 10 years, according to Dordt's  admissions office. 

Vice President for College Advancement John Baas said that while Dordt’s numbers are not the highest among similar colleges, they are steadily in the top percentile.

“We are happy about that,” Baas said. 

Institutional data from many public universities, including Ivy League schools, show legacy populations of less than 15 percent. 

“Dordt College has amazing alumni loyalty. It is unique to see such a high attendance of alumni kids. National averages would be much lower,” said Provost Eric Forseth. 

Freshman Cailee Veenstra is at Dordt with two brothers, senior Devin and sophomore Brennan. They also have three cousins on campus; their parents and grandmother went to Dordt, as did several other cousins, aunts, and uncles. 

Cailee Veenstra believes that these sorts of family connections make Dordt unique.

“The fact that some of our parents went to college together gives us just one more thing to talk about,” Veenstra said.
President Erik Hoekstra agreed that these interactions help make Dordt College so memorable.“

In my travels talking with alumni, the word ‘community’ is what people remember and value about Dordt College,” Hoekstra said. “It helps account for the high percentage, year after year, of children of alumni that return to study at Dordt College.”

For Alexa Vos, the Dordt community was a large part to her decision to attend Dordt. All four of her grandparents went to Dordt, and so did her parents and many of her aunts and uncles. Her great grandmother was even one of the original cooks in the Commons. 

“I was the baby with all of the Dordt gear,” Vos said. “I never even considered attending another school.”

Vos loves her family's history with Dordt and says that their experiences in the Dordt community are reflected in her family, which is very close. 

“That feeling of community gets under your skin. I can see it in the lives of my family members,” Vos said.

Freshman Mark Geertsma had a similar experience. His parents and sisters all attended Dordt, and, as the youngest in the family, it was the only school he knew about because they all talked about their experiences and memories at Dordt. 

“I explored several options,” Geertsma said of his decision to attend Dordt. “But Dordt always resonated in my mind. The other colleges I looked at just didn’t seem like a great fit.”

Those working in admissions and advancement at Dordt say that these positive experiences of community are very important to the college.

“It means people are happy with the education they’ve received and with the entire Dordt experience,” said Baas.

Our Community

While strong alumni loyalty is important and the current percentages are “wonderful numbers,” according to President Hoekstra, Dordt’s community extends far beyond alumni. 

Dordt's student body, this year, represents 25 countries and 34 states, with 60 percent of students hailing from out of state. While the majority of students come from a Reformed church background, 19 denominations and several independent congregations are represented on campus. Forty-four percent of students are Christian Reformed.

“The Reformed community is not a closed community,” said Hoekstra. “We try to focus on being welcoming and hospitable so that we don’t become insular and exclusive—and so that many more people become Dordt College alumni. Connected alumni children and students with increasingly diverse backgrounds give us the best of both worlds."

Pictured: Devin, Brenna, and Cailee Veenstra from Pella, Iowa, are one of only a few three-sibling groups on campus. Their alumni parents, Kevin ('89) and Carrie (Smits, '90), along with brothers Jeron and Kendon, came to campus this fall for a family visit and to participate in Defender Days festivities.


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