Redeemer at 40

The university is celebrating a milestone of 40 years.

Last month marked the 40th anniversary of Redeemer University. I can still recall the original campus of Redeemer College on Beach Boulevard and high school visits to the townhouses that served as the first dorms. Sometime later, I recall a brief encounter with Rev. DeBolster who, in his thick Dutch accent, advocated for me to consider a Redeemer education. I was not convinced. I had already decided to attend the University of Waterloo for engineering, a subject area not available at the fledgling Redeemer College.

While I was a student in Waterloo, I would make regular weekend trips to Redeemer’s new Ancaster campus to visit friends from my Christian high school. It was on one of these visits that I met an engaging student in the hallway of Redeemer, a young lady named Carina. A few years later we were married and Carina completed her teacher’s degree in the first cohort of education students at Redeemer. She went on to teach in a small Christian school while I began working in industry as an engineer.

A tug towards teaching

A few years later, I distinctly recall sitting in a cubicle farm wondering how my faith connected to my work as an engineer. Integrating faith and work was not part of the core curriculum in a public university; in fact, my public university education did not include any coherent core curriculum. I began to browse through my wife’s copy of Creation Regained, a wonderful book by Redeemer professor Al Wolters. It helped me to begin to think more deeply about a Christian worldview.

After several years in industry, I gradually discerned a tug towards teaching. It was while thumbing through an issue of Christian Courier that I spotted an advertisement for a part-time position teaching introductory computer programming at Redeemer. I applied for the position and discovered a latent gift and delight for teaching. I made the bold move to quit my engineering job and return to school to complete a doctorate so I could teach full-time at a college or university. Just as I was completing my degree, Redeemer advertised a full-time position for a computer science professor. I applied and was offered the position, beginning a career in Christian higher education that continues to this day.

I was grateful to discover that new faculty at Redeemer were given many opportunities to develop as Christian scholars. I now teach at Calvin University and I have had the opportunity to speak about a Christian perspective on technology across the United States. In my travels, I observe a genuine hunger for integrating faith and academic disciplines like engineering and a deep appreciation for the insights of a Reformed Christian world-and-life view. To be frank, many of the insights that continue to inform my writing, teaching and speaking I learned from wise colleagues at Redeemer. 

Looking forward

Books like The Dying of the Light document the stories of universities that began as Christian institutions but later drifted from their mission and eventually became secular. One key factor for Christian institutions to remain true to their mission is to build a faculty of committed Christian scholars who can articulate and embody the institutional vision. When I joined Redeemer, I was grateful to be mentored by many of the pioneering faculty, joining a vibrant academic community in which I could develop as a Reformed Christian scholar. You could say that it was not until I became a new faculty member at Redeemer that I finally received the Christian liberal arts education that DeBolster advocated for many years before.

At this milestone for Redeemer, I can’t help but reflect on how its history has intersected my own: the place where I met my wife, where I developed as a Christian scholar, and where our four children have studied. As Redeemer celebrates its 40th anniversary, my hope and prayer are that it will hold firm to its founding mission and that its light will not grow dim.

Author

  • Derek Schuurman

    Derek C. Schuurman is a Canadian currently living in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he is professor of computer science at Calvin University. Prior to arriving at Calvin, he worked as an engineer and taught for many years at Redeemer University. He is a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation and an Associate Fellow of the Kirby Laing Center for Public Theology. Besides his technical interests he is interested in faith and technology issues. He is the author of Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture and Computer Technology (IVP, 2013) and a co-author of A Christian Field Guide to Technology for Engineers and Designers (IVP, 2022).

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