The Voice: Fall 2002

The Voice

IAPCHE finds institutional home on Dordt’s campus

Dr. Nick Lantinga takes over from Dr. J.B. Hulst as executive secretary of IAPCHE. The IAPCHE office has been located in the B.J. Haan Auditorium for several years. But the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education has a new look with new office space and new personnel. This summer the association expanded into space made available by the move of the college academic offices to the new Campus Center.

And there’s an even bigger change. After giving leadership to the organization for the past twenty-five years, the last six as executive director, Dr. John Hulst is retiring—or at least beginning the process. The new executive secretary is Dr. Nick Lantinga, an adjunct professor at Dordt College. He is assisted by Mrs. Anne Maatman in an expanded office manager position. Hulst will stay on this year as senior advisor.

According to Hulst, who has worked nearly full-time on a volunteer basis since his retirement from the Dordt College presidency, the time is right for a transition to a new leader. Hulst has worked tirelessly to sharpen IAPCHE’s mission, generate support, compile a long-range plan, and heighten commitment to the organization around the world. At the same time he helped organize international conferences, raised financial support, and edited the IAPCHE newsletter, Contact.

“IAPCHE is in a better position to serve than ever before largely because of Hulst’s efforts these past few years,” says Dr. John Vander Stelt, emeritus professor of philosophy at Dordt, who has served as both executive secretary and chair of the association board over the past twenty-seven years.

“Hulst not only has helped the organization gain stability, increased people’s awareness of its importance, and generated financial support, but he has also helped Christian scholars around the world develop an understanding of their interdependence.”

Hulst’s retirement forced the IAPCHE board to face the question of where to locate its office. For years Dordt has provided office support and leadership through Hulst and Vander Stelt, but with the search for a new executive secretary an invitation also went out to member institutions to consider being the host institution for the association. In the end, with Lantinga hired, a capable office manager in place, a formal commitment by Dordt to provide office support—and maybe because of Dordt’s long history with the organization—the IAPCHE board opted to remain headquartered on Dordt’s campus.

“We have a clear sense of who we are and where we are going at this point,” says Vander Stelt, who is the North American regional advisor to the board. He attributes much of
that clarity to Hulst’s careful planning, his sensitivity to the constituency, his expertise in networking, his clarity of vision, and, simply put, his dogged perseverance for a cause he feels passionate about.

Both Hulst and Vander Stelt also believe it is time for a younger generation to assume leadership.

“We don’t want the face of IAPCHE to be equated only with retired people,” says Vander Stelt.

Lantinga brings enthusiasm, energy, and passion for the work of promoting Christian higher education around the world. He uses two words to describe how he plans to proceed—translation and velcro.

“I want IAPCHE to help Christian scholars and educators translate into their own context the vision of Abraham Kuyper that every inch of this world lies under the Lordship of Christ,” he says.

He uses velcro as a metaphor to describe his administrative role.

“We are only one half of the connection. We’re loops that others can hook on to for help in translating that vision into their own cultural situation.”

Lantinga fully supports the decentralized organizational structure set by IAPCHE leaders at Conference 2000, a gathering of Christians in higher education from around the world that committed the association to supporting strong regional organizations in Latin America, North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia/Oceania.

A strong organization is currently in place in Latin America, as well as in North America and Africa. A regional presence has been strengthened in Europe following a recent conference in Budapest, Hungary that brought together seventy-seven people from twelve countries, many from Eastern Europe. Lantinga, Hulst, and Vander Stelt hope that the same happens in the Asia/Oceania region in late October following the upcoming conference in the Philippines. Five scholars from each of seven countries will come together to try to build community in that region.

“Historical rivalries and antagonisms dating back to World War II and beyond exist between Japanese and both Chinese and Koreans,” says Lantinga. He hopes that bringing Christians together with a common sense of purpose can foster a different community for them to align themselves with.

Lantinga also expects to launch a full membership drive soon, increasing membership at all levels. The goal is to increase individual members from 370 to 550 and institutional members from 35 to 50 by 2005.

“I plan to accomplish that well before 2005,” Lantinga says. He will focus more on individual Christian academicians, reaching out to professors at evangelical institutions who show an increasing appreciation for Kuyper’s vision.

“It’s hard to predict where this organization will be a few years from now, but the possibilities are huge,” says Lantinga.

Hulst, approaching his second retirement in a sense, is enthusiastic about the future too, but he is ready to make way for new leadership. He doesn’t intend to leave behind the cause of Christian higher education though. He’ll continue to serve in board and advisory capacities with both the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Washington D.C. and the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.