The Voice: Summer 2002

The Voice

An alumni father reflects on his own graduation and his son’s . . . 25 years later

By Henry Contant ('77)

Henry Contant is the director of development for the Abbotsford Christian School Society in British Columbia.  David graduated this spring with a buisiness major.Permit me to be nostalgic. Twenty-five years ago I was part of the Dordt College Class of 1977 that walked across the stage to receive the B.J. Haan handshake and my bachelor’s degree. Now, twenty-five years later, my wife and I will be among the ranks of thankful parents watching the Dordt College Class of 2002, including our son, walk across the stage to receive the C.E. Zylstra handshake and his own hard-earned bachelor’s degree. I think it will be a defining moment for me, one that not only clearly marks the passing of a generation or a quarter century, but a moment of deep gratitude to God for his steadfast faithfulness to his people and to Dordt College.

Checking back in my Signet, I was reminded that our 1977 commencement speaker was Professor John Timmer of Calvin College. His topic was “A Limitless Vision for a Limited People.” The Signet records that “he meditated on how short and insignificant our lives are in the world’s terms compared to the great kingdom that Christ is establishing through people like us.” Yes, throughout my four years at Dordt, I was challenged to “make a difference” and “change the world.” Our class was sent from Dordt College that second Friday of May 1977 with the words of the benediction “May the grace and peace of Christ be with you.”

Twenty-five years later, I’m in one of those reflective moods—what things have changed and what has remained constant at Dordt College over the past generation?

In 1977 …
•     Our Canadian dollar was still worth an equivalent dollar in the US.
•     Budgeting for a year of college meant saving (or borrowing) around $2500.
•     Reformed Christian colleges were still only a vision in Canada.
•     The SUB was our favorite (and only) student hangout on campus.
•     Defender basketball teams struggled desperately to defeat Northwestern.
•     Excavation had just begun for the largest construction project in Dordt’s history, (the first and only non red-brick building), known then, simply, as the “Chapel.”
•     An “off-campus experience” meant that you were a junior or senior and expected to live in one of the dozens of “off-campus” approved college housing basement suites throughout Sioux Center.
•     Professor John Van Dyk not only sported a philosopher’s beard, his insights helped us see the world through a different set of lenses.

In 2002…
•     Our Canadian dollar is worth sixty-two cents US, on a good day!
•     Budgeting for a year at college means saving (or mortgaging) over $20,000.
•     Two Reformed Christian universities have been established in Canada.
•     The SUB is being demolished, but the old mailboxes are being salvaged.
•     Defender basketball teams still reminisce about the time they “almost” defeated Northwestern.
•     Construction is nearly complete on the new Student Life Center, the largest and most expensive red-brick building on Dordt’s campus.
•     An “off-campus” experience now means a semester of study in Europe, the Middle East, Central America, or Asia.
•     Professor John Van Dyk’s beard is now white, he’s moved from philosophy to education, and has influenced a whole generation of Christian teachers with his insights into the “craft of teaching Christianly” and his publications on Christian education.

The comparative lists could go on much longer. However, “seeing” Dordt College again through the current experiences of our son and daughter these past four years, I realize many things in the Dordt experience remain constant twenty-five years later.
•     Dordt professors still care deeply about their students, and they continue to shape and mold a new generation of leaders.
•     Friendships developed in college dormitory and apartment experiences are unique and may last a lifetime.
•     ‘Investing’ in a Christian college education is a wise decision, with immeasurable benefits.
•     Dordt is still “in the Iowa corn fields.“ However, it’s not Dordt’s location or Sioux County’s geography that attracts and retains a student body from across North America and around the world, it’s the “Dordt community” that keeps students coming back to northwest Iowa.
•     A distinctive biblical worldview still permeates Dordt College classrooms, and students are still being challenged to “make a difference” and “change the world.”

I’m thankful for a career in Christian education that has spanned twenty-five years. Undeniably, my Dordt College experience molded my perspective and worldview. My wife, children, extended family, church, countless students, parents, colleagues, and life experiences have further shaped that foundation.

Celebrating with our son as he now graduates from Dordt College with a degree in business administration, I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness for a family and Christian community that has loved, cared for, encouraged, challenged, prayed for, and molded him. I pray that Dave and his entire “Class of 2002” will be insightful, obedient, and active servants in God’s world. Soli Deo Gloria!