Friday 15 February 2013

In Memory of John Hulst

Dr. John B. Hulst: Visionary Servant Leader

Dr. John B. Hulst began teaching theology at Dordt College in 1968. I was one of his first students. I remember his quiet dignity and his impressive command of the material as he lectured to hundreds of first-year students in the old gymnasium at Dordt.

From teaching Dr. Hulst quickly moved into other roles at Dordt, serving as campus pastor and then dean of students before becoming Dordt’s second president in 1982, a position he held until his retirement in 1996. Because I was active in student government, I had many occasions to test and learn from Dr. Hulst’s wisdom about how institutions work. In 1971, as board chair of the fledgling National Association for Christian Political Action, he hired me to be NACPA’s temporary executive director. I first met Harold and Ruth Recker at the NACPA conference John and I organized that summer. Little did I realize that in six years the Reckers would be my parents-in-law! NACPA itself became the Center for Public Justice in Washington DC, the American counterpart to Canada’s Citizens for Public Justice.

Deeply committed to a Kuyperian vision of life and society, John Hulst had an unstoppable passion for higher education in the Reformed tradition. Perhaps it is no accident that the nearly all of the first graduates from ICS’s master’s program—Brad Breems, Harry Fernhout, John Hull, Don Sinnema, and I—had studied at Dordt when John worked closely with students there. Moreover, all of us went on to faculty and administrative positions at Calvin College, The King’s University College, Trinity Christian College, and ICS.

John was just as active in retirement as he had been during his highly successful presidency at Dordt College. He was a leading figure in the formation of the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE), together with John Vander Stelt, who taught philosophy and theology at Dordt for many years. He also was a strong promoter of what has become the Association of Reformed Colleges and Universities (ARCU). And for several years, during Harry Fernhout’s tenure as ICS’s president, John served as the dynamic chair of ICS’s board of trustees. In that role he helped ICS achieve financial stability after a troubled time, and he tirelessly promoted our work through his many networks and contacts in the United States.

What I remember most vividly, however, and with greatest appreciation, is John’s genuine interest and care for the young people he served over the years. Blessed with a deep bass voice and a lively intelligence, he would always seek me out at meetings to ask about my life and to offer words of appreciation and encouragement. Even though he had served thousands of undergraduates over the years, he always let me know I had his personal blessing.

John Hulst died on February 8, 2013, at the age of 83. We have lost a visionary servant leader. Asking God to sustain his loved ones, we give heartfelt thanks for his life and work.

Lambert Zuidervaart