Elizabeth Helmkamp-Staff Writer
On February 24, Dr. Charles Adams, founder of the Dordt engineering department, passed away. He started at the college in 1979, and taught and worked with many of the faculty members teaching in the engineering department today. Several of these professors shared their memories of Adams in his passing.
Dr. Ethan Brue both had Adams as a teacher and also worked with him as a colleague.
“I remember he loved music,” Brue said. “He loved woodworking—all sorts of things. [He] loved philosophy and politics and talking about everything in the world that Christians would confront.”
“Yes,” remembers Brue, “he was an engineer, so he taught engineering materials, but it was always in the context of how we love the Lord and how we fulfill our calling. First and foremost, he wanted us to be that…that was probably the thing I remember most about him.”
Adams showed Brue what engineering could be by teaching everything in context of a broader calling, and Adams influenced Brue to study engineering.
“He wasn’t the easiest professor. He drove us hard, he worked us hard. He definitely, at times, exasperated us as students, and he was provocative enough to make us angry and bothered at things sometimes—that was his style. But he had, for the most part, a gift in being able to balance that with a deep care for the students,” Brue said.
“Yes he had a very strong, opinionated way of teaching…but he always welcomed disagreement. I think he even loved disagreement,” Brue recalled. “In that way we knew he cared deeply about the way that we thought.”
Brue said, that as a colleague, Adams was always encouraging towards other faculty. “He was a great leader.”
Dr. Joel Sikkema also had Adams as a teacher. Sikkema said Adams influenced him primarily through “plumb lines,” which were some of Adams’ writings about Christian life.
Dr. Justin Vander Werff, another Dordt professor who learned under Adams, said the man’s worldview heavily influenced him.
“I wouldn’t be here at Dordt if hadn’t been for him,” Vander Werff said. “Even before I was teaching at Dordt, I felt like I was really enjoying my work as an engineer because of, in many ways, the perspective I got from him.”
Dr. Kevin Timmer also had Adams as a professor and worked with him as a college. When describing his experience as a student with Adams, he said, “I remember him being very intelligent; I remember him being very precise in his language, very precise in his expectations. I thought of him as a very demanding professor, demanding in a way you could tell he had your best interests in mind.”
Timmer said Adams liked to read. “He would start the summer with a stack of books that tall,” Timmer held his hand about a foot above his desk, “and that was his summer reading.”
He also remembers several stories about Adams. Since Adams grew up in the 1960s, he “kinda had that radical anti-war sort of undertone to him, and I remember during the gulf war [he had] an anti-war party at his house for a few of us faculty. It was very interesting.”
In another instance, “We were coming back from a conference in Wisconsin… and we stopped in at this Hardees in Humboldt, and we were eating our supper there and this older gentleman came over to our table and said, ‘It’s so nice to see a father out with his two sons.’ So we got a kick out of that,” said Timmer, “and after that I started calling him ‘Dad’ once in a while, whenever it seemed most inappropriate or whenever it would get the biggest reaction out of him.”
“Even in his final week,” said Kory Plockmeyer, pastor of Covenant Christian Reformed Church, “he continued to try to join in with the singing of hymns and expressed love for his wife and for the Lord.”