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College library expansion named after generous benefactor

Peter Turkstra honoured by Redeemer

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ANCASTER, Ontario - A major expansion of Redeemer University College’s library will be named after a benefactor whose “advice and financial support were instrumental in Redeemer’s formation in 1982 and in the construction of our Ancaster campus in 1986.” Hamilton area building trade supplier Peter Turkstra generously gave of his time and money when the college was little more than a concept on paper. The Turkstra Lumber founder “had a heart for Christian education,” reports Redeemer’s president Dr. Justin Cooper.

The institution’s $3 million library expansion is part of a much larger building program with a price tag of $15 million. The library and Redeemer’s south wing are budgetted at $6.2 million. The other funds have been earmarked for academic facilities, a student residence and infrastructure upgrades for the 800 student society-operated and member-funded college. It is the first time Redeemer will name a facility after a benefactor, a practise much more common in related U.S. institutions.

Redeemer has projected its enrollment to grow to 1,000 within the next few years. Enrollment in the opening year of 1982 stood at 97 full-time and 63 part-time students. The current 78-acre college site was purchased in 1985. The new campus opened the following year. Ontario legislative bills in 1998 and 2002 gave Redeemer its degree-granting status and university college name. In 1986, it became the first Canadian member of the U.S. based Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The following year, it was accepted as a full member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

Choice of colleges

The Ancaster institution has its origin in the Reformed Christian segment of the Dutch Canadian community, and is part of its broadly supported goal of offering Christian education from elementary school to university and post-graduate studies. Redeemer is one of two such institutions in Canada. The other one, the Kings University College in Edmonton also is raising funds for a major expansion.

In addition, the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto runs a joint post-graduate program with the Free University of Amsterdam.

The community’s counterpart in the U.S.A. supports a number of liberal arts colleges of which Calvin College in Grand Rapids, and Hope College in Holland, both in Michigan, are most widely known. The others are Trinity Christian College in Chicago, Illinois, and Dordt College in Sioux Center and Northwestern College in Orange City, both in Iowa. A new group plans to open a college in California.

A number of theological colleges and seminaries in Canada and the U.S.A. train students specifically for ministries in various Reformed Christian groups of churches.

None of the institutions are publicly funded.

Turkstra formed various businesses

Dutch-Canadian pioneer Peter Turkstra who died at age 90 four years ago, arrived with a brother and a sister in Canada in 1925. They served as vanguards for their family - the parents with seven more children - which came to Hamilton a year later.

The enterpreneur was involved in the egg business, in construction and the building material sectors. In the 1950s, Turkstra and his wife Jantina (Havinga) formed his Inner Peace Foundation, which supported various causes, including Redeemer. The enterpreneur himself had very little formal education.

Turkstra and his wife raised four sons and a daughter.