Committed ServantsBy Anita Cirulis

Carl Vandermeulen and John Greller end their long tenures at Northwestern

Word Lover

Vandermeulen Close Up
Year hired by NWC
Calvin College (A.B.), University of South Dakota (M.A.), University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Ph.D.)
Teaching career
Spent entirely in Orange City (Vandermeulen taught at Unity Christian High School for 14 years before joining NWC’s faculty, and at least 23 current NWC faculty and staff were at one time his students in high school or college.)
Estimated number of student papers read while at NWC

Carl Vandermeulen’s voice is remarkably similar to that of Garrison Keillor, host of radio’s The Prairie Home Companion. Like Keillor, his speech is soothing, unhurried, thoughtful—and he, too, is comfortable with meanderings.

“Carl’s teaching is unique,” says Dr. Joonna Trapp, a colleague in the English department. “Rarely straightforward and direct, he finds himself wandering along paths of inquiry, inviting students to follow him.”

With Vandermeulen’s retirement after 25 years at Northwestern, students will have to follow someone else in more than one department.

Vandermeulen initially joined the college’s faculty on a part-time basis to teach communication studies courses. A year later, he began serving as the adviser for the Beacon, the student newspaper—a natural role for someone who taught News Writing and Editing, Feature Writing, and Layout and Design. Then came added responsibilities in the English department, where he helped establish a writing center, wrote the curriculum for its writing courses, and later was lead writer for the writing and rhetoric major.

As varied as Vandermeulen’s roles have been, most have revolved around the written word: teaching journalism and literature courses, directing the English education program and supervising its student teachers. He even helped craft the proposal that brought a $2 million Lilly grant to NWC—an achievement he described as “satisfying” because of its impact on the college.

“I’m a word nerd,” Vandermeulen says, “someone who loves stories and poetry and the magic of language.”

He’s also someone who preferred listening to lecturing. Instead of a monologue, Vandermeulen favored dialogue, explaining things to students and then posing questions that allowed them to discover what they had to say and the pleasures of saying it.

“I tried to create a community in the classroom where students were interdependent and learned from each other,” Vandermeulen says. “If they trusted the process and engaged in it, they finished the course able to do what they weren’t able to do when they started, with a different sense of who they were and what they were capable of knowing and being.”

Years after taking his classes, Northwestern alumni report that Vandermeulen—in his soft-spoken way—did just that.

Friend Raiser

Greller Close Up
Year hired by NWC
Kenyon College (B.A.), Oberlin College (M.A.T.)
Total raised for NWC during his tenure
$67 million
Most fulfilling fundraising accomplishment
Raising money for the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center

“The theatre was in the most disrepair of our facilities, and yet it was one of our finest departments. I lobbied for making it a priority. I didn’t want to lose faculty members and see the program go down the tubes.”

Growing up in Washington, D.C., John Greller was expected to go to a good school, get good grades, obtain a good job, and earn good money. Instead he came to know Christ and dedicated himself to building God’s kingdom by helping others give their money away.

After 30 years in fundraising—more than half of which were spent at Northwestern College—Greller is retiring. Just as he felt called by God to NWC, he believes God is making it clear it’s time to leave: Plans to retire in a year and a half were moved up when he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

This isn’t the first health challenge Greller and his wife, Janeo, have faced. A few years after becoming Northwestern’s vice president for advancement, John experienced kidney failure due to diabetes. He went through two transplants, the second time getting a kidney from his son Brian after his body rejected the first organ.

Throughout his illnesses, surgeries and hospitalizations, Greller has impressed others with his unwavering faith in and love for God. “His faith in the Lord is the first thing you see when you meet John,” says his colleague and successor, Jay Wielenga ’82.

Equally as notable about Greller is his deep love for people and for Northwestern.

“When John created new friends for the college, it was so genuine,” says Drew Vogel, Board of Trustees chair. “He showed what North-
western’s mission is all about. He and Janeo fell in love with Northwestern, and then he always said [his job] was easy.”

The Grellers are known for their hospitality, opening their home to students, colleagues and friends of the college. John regularly attended chapel, and Janeo joined him for meals in the cafeteria with students and in cheering the Raiders at athletic contests.

Those familiar with John’s deep bass voice and hearty laugh also know he has a gift for listening to, caring for and encouraging people. In fact, it’s his people skills that made him so successful at his job. As Greller often pointed out, “Fundraising is really friend raising.”

With Greller’s retirement, both Northwestern and its alumni and supporters are losing a true

One More

Dr. Kimberly Utke Svanoe, professor of music, announced her retirement after the deadline for this issue. A feature on her will be included in the fall Classic.

Classic Comments

All comments are moderated and need approval from the moderator before they are posted. Comments that include profanity, or personal attacks, or antisocial behavior such as "spamming" or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our terms of use. You are fully responsible for the content that you post. Comments posted do not reflect the views or values of Northwestern College.

Share your news
Do you have news or a story idea you would like to appear in the Classic? You can let us know by sending us an email or by updating your information.