Dr. William W. Jellema ’50

Dr. William W. Jellema ’50, born in Ridgeland, Wis., June 25, 1927, died Aug. 8, 2016, in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

While he was beset in the last years by challenges to his mind and memory, he retained until the last day his irrepressibly positive approach to life, sharp sense of humor, warm smile, and everlasting love of conversation and a good walk.

On his 17th birthday in 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy Air Corps and served for two years during and immediately after World War II.  Soon thereafter he enrolled at Hope College in Holland where he met his future wife, Lois Ann England ’51 who enrolled the year after he did.  As he himself said, he loved her from the day they met.  They were married in 1952 and began a lifelong partnership in family, work and travel. Following his graduation cum laude from Hope College in 1950, William earned a Th.M. degree from Western Theological Seminary in 1953 and thereafter set off with Lois for Edinburgh, Scotland, and Basel, Switzerland, where he pursued and obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1957.

In his time abroad, he and Lois began what would become a lifetime saga of world travel by hitchhiking across Europe.  They subsequently visited more than 70 countries together. His professional career in the U.S. began as a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Alma College in Alma and continued with his appointment in 1960 as a Michigan Fellow in College Administration and graduate faculty member at the University of Michigan. William subsequently was selected as the Executive Associate and Research Director of the Association of American Colleges (AAC), in Washington D.C. and spent seven years there during which time he conducted studies, delivered speeches and authored a variety of books and other publications, including his seminal work “From Red to Black?” an examination of the current and prospective finances of higher education.

While at the AAC, William was also awarded an honorary doctoral degree (Ed.D.) from Findlay College (now the University of Findlay). In 1974, he was inaugurated as the President of Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and supported by Lois, led that institution to new heights in capital and endowment fundraising and in its enrollment. Following his service at Wartburg, he accepted an appointment as professor of higher education at the University of Connecticut and invested 17 rewarding years as a teacher and doctoral advisor for graduate students and doctoral candidates. He retired in 1997 and was granted the title of professor emeritus.

He was blessed with a prodigious intellect, great learning, enormous energy, natural leadership and the ability to speak and communicate with warmth and persuasion. He loved the game of squash, and enjoyed many other sports and activities with his family. As someone who became a recognized expert and author on higher education finance, he never lost his love for, and continued to advocate the Christ-centered liberal arts education as the model to which post-secondary education should aspire. As he wrote many years ago, citing the words of the Apostle Paul who admonished believers to be transformed by the renewal for their minds, the renewing of our minds is to be accomplished by discovering and following the will of God. However, even as his gifts and professional accomplishments are celebrated, it was his unstinting love and devotion to Lois and his children and greater family that distinguished his life and gave credence to his faith.

His marriage to Lois Ann was exceptionally strong and at the center of both of their lives. It is entirely appropriate that he died on the 64th anniversary of his wedding to Lois, who predeceased him by 10 years (they were happily married for 54 years). As a father with many professional achievements and work-related demands upon him, he nevertheless consistently made family and the raising of three sons a priority in his life. While the immense blessing of being the offspring of the union of William and Lois cannot easily be measure, it offers plain evidence of the unending goodness and love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

He is survived by his and Lois’ three sons, William Ian, Calvin Paul ’79 and Jonathan Mark ’81; two daughters-in-law, Laureen Elaine and Gail Renee; and five grandchildren, William, Christina, Hannah, Julia, and Mark.

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