Sitting in his brightly lit office, newly appointed president of Dordt College, Erik Hoekstra, leans back in his chair staring out at the snow covered plains optimistic about his new position and the future of Dordt College.
“I’ve spent most of the fall and spring semester meeting and listening to Dordt students and faculty and broader community and alumni and churches,” said President Hoekstra. “I did 24 ‘Meet the President’ events in the fall. From Florida to Texas to Ontario to Michigan and California, I’m just going out and listening and speaking to these groups to tell about the good story of what is happening here.”
And when Hoekstra talks about “the good story” he means the college itself. According to Hoekstra, the college currently has its fifth largest enrollment ever and Hoekstra wants to keep that momentum going.
“I believe it’s important to continue to grow the enrollment primarily because we do a good job preparing students to work effectively for Christ centered renewal,” Hoekstra said. “So if we do a good job at that, wouldn’t we want more students to have that?”
Hoekstra has been working with the faculty and academic leadership teams in order to come up with plans to continue to grow enrollment. Hoekstra plans to continue programs that have the highest student involvement while starting a few new programs such as Construction Management and Worship Arts. His biggest asset and strategy right now, however, is simply listening.
“I don’t want to assume that since I was provost for the last four years that I understand what this job is. I want to spend this year not just treading water, but doing a lot of listening,” Hoekstra said.
Another task he must accomplish is finding a new Provost and a head of admissions department since the current head; Quentin Van Essen, has decided to retire. Hoekstra says that this year is geared toward getting those two positions taken care of.
A few more changes that have been happening are the remodeling and switching of the alumni house and president’s house. The houses will be switched and Hoekstra is thrilled about the change.
“The Board, before I was president, approved an addition for the old president’s home,” said Hoekstra. He then mentioned to the board about the possibility of having the president’s house becoming the new alumni house and vice versa. Hoekstra is thrilled about the switch because he is now able to be even more involved on campus and getting to know students.
“I’m eager to have students stop by and talk to me. If I plop down at the commons and have lunch with you, don’t be surprised if I don’t remember your name the first time or second time,” said Hoekstra. “My goal is that by the time you get your diploma and graduate, I’ll know every student. Don’t leave college saying, ‘Gosh I didn’t know the president.’”
Hoekstra’s passion for getting to know people and serving others began back in high school when he created his own landscaping company. Growing up in Chicago, Hoekstra always wanted to go to a Christian college, so I he decided to go to Trinity College so he could continue managing his landscaping business while working toward a degree in history and philosophy in preparation for seminary.
“When my wife and I got married during the summer between junior and senior year, she thought she was marrying a pastor, but during the middle of my senior year I said, ‘I’m not ready for seminary yet God’ and He seemed to be ok with this,” Hoekstra said. “I thought I would go back, but I decided to formally go into business.”
After Trinity, Hoekstra received his International Masters of Business in the Netherlands, worked in Michigan for a few years, began teaching business at Dordt in 1997, left that position to run another business in Sioux Center for eight years, and then returned Dordt as the Provost.
“I believe that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. I’ve been a faculty member here and a lifetime member of the Christian Reformed Church and believe that the biblical narrative is the ultimate authority,” Hoekstra said.
Hoekstra continued to say that at his inauguration, he was able to sit down and talk to the second president of Dordt College John Hulst and gain more insight and words of encouragement.
“He (Hulst) said that when he left the Presidency in 1995, the Board talked to him about if the next president should be a pastor and at that point it wasn’t a requirement. Hulst reflected on it and said to me, ‘Erik, we would say that we were sure that the mission of Dordt as a Christian institution was vested in lots of people when we would have the confidence to make the president not a clergy. People should be encouraged to say that the vision of Dordt College is in our bones now rather than the (president alone),’” said Hoekstra.
Hoekstra said that he has been honored and humbled by that statement. “No man can be president on his own. President Zylstra built a team around him. I’ll build a team around me.”
Adam McDonald, Head Editor