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Weidenaar ends his second career

By Sally Jongsma

Bernie Weidenaar does not hesitate to say that teaching is harder than he expected.

Bernie Weidenaar

Bernie Weidenaar

“Any transition takes effort, but this one was more of a challenge than I figured on,” he says with his signature wry grin. Six years ago Weidenaar moved from industry to teaching. He had spent the first thirty-six years of his professional life in the chemical industry, much of it in sales and marketing.

“Fortunately, I had a lifetime of experience to draw on,” he says, recalling the first couple of years of teaching. Even the many marketing presentations he made did not give him the level of angst he felt each time he entered the classroom those first months. Six years later, he smiles and says, “Now that it’s feeling comfortable, maybe I shouldn’t quit.”

But despite his classroom learning curve, Weidenaar jumped right in with contributions to the department, to students, to the college, and to the community.

“Bernie brought a number of creative ideas to the table for strengthening our business programs,” says Dr. Sherri Lantinga, Weidenaar’s dean. He helped explore a joint construction management program with a local community college; he emphasized the need for an international business program; and as the chair of the Institutional Planning Committee for two years, he pushed administrators to focus on growth potential. 

Weidenaar’s years of business experience provided him with stories enjoyed by both his colleagues and his students. And anyone in the business department who hears expressions such as “at the end of the day,” or “I hate it when that happens,” or getting in “deep weeds” immediately will smile and think of Weidenaar. In anticipation of his retirement the department dubbed March “The Month of the Bernster” and posted a range of humorous photos and comments about him, including the following list:

A Few of the Things We Like About The Bernster…

His passion for business (and especially the chemical business).

His extensive business experience and marketing expertise.

His willingness to serve whenever asked: in the department, college, church and community.

His knowledge of planes and flying and his willingness to start a flying club at Dordt.

His innate ability to determine what will get people into “deep weeds.”

His “I hate it when that happens!” expression.

His willingness to accept the more-or-less thankless job of department chair

His lovely wife Marilyn!

His extensive knowledge about (yes, we might even say love affair with) furfural.

His hat (which he should wear more often).

His support of the arts (theater, painting, etc.).

His good nature when beaten like a drum with something such as The Month of the Bernster.

His desire to work with students when he could have retired.

His willingness to cook us burgers at the end-of-year senior’s party (but DON’T touch his grill!).

His leadership at our department meetings.

His willingness to spring for just about anything. (Is this guy really Dutch?)

Lantinga adds words of appreciation: “Bernie is also a man of compassion and generosity who happily reaches out to those in need, from giving guest lectures to proctoring a colleague’s test to checking in with hurting people on faculty and staff.”

And, this time, Weidenaar really does plan to retire.