John Santinga ’54
John Timothy Santinga, aged 91, died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on October 23, 2023. He was born on September 23, 1932 to Beatrice (Santinga) and Henry Weenink of Kalamazoo, Michigan. John’s mother Beatrice died during childbirth, whereupon John was adopted and raised by his loving grandparents, Timothy and Alice Santinga.
John graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1950. He attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan for three years. During his junior year, he received early admission to the University of Michigan Medical School. Elected to the honorary societies of both Alpha Omega Alpha and Phi Kappa Phi, he graduated from medical school with honors in 1957.
John and Reda (Rynbrandt), whom he had married in 1956, moved to Grand Rapids where he took his internship and first year of internal medicine residency at Butterworth Hospital. Thereupon, John was called into military service and assigned as a captain to the Air Force base near Seville, Spain. He served for three years. During this time, he and his growing family enjoyed living in the small town of Alcala de Guadaria and traveling in Europe and Morocco.
After finishing his residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiology in Ann Arbor, an opportunity arose for another overseas experience. Having a special interest in academic medicine, he accepted a faculty position as an assistant professor at the Medical School at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. With financial support from the Presbyterian Mission Board and a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, John was instrumental in developing a cardiac catheterization lab, an intensive care unit, and an open-heart surgery suite, along with Korean colleagues. After three and a half years, he was offered a position back at the University of Michigan Medical School in the department of cardiology.
Returning to the States, the family of five spent a month taking the long way home, traveling from Seoul to Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok, Rome, Barcelona, and London. They stayed in each city for about five days visiting museums, cathedrals, and other historical sites.
Back in Ann Arbor, John rejoined the UM faculty in internal medicine and cardiology and was promoted to associate professor in 1974. During his long career at Michigan, he carried out research in artificial heart valves, started the diagnostic stress laboratory for the non-invasive detection of coronary disease, and initiated the anti-coagulation clinic at the hospital.
Medical student teaching was very important to Dr. Santinga. For a number of years, he served as course director for cardiology and was a favorite of students, who named him a recipient of the Galens award. Under his leadership, a free clinic at Whitmore Lake was established with medical student participation. The Medical School honored him with the Kaiser Permanente Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Clinical Sciences.
In 1984 Dr. Santinga received a Hartford foundation grant for a fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Returning to Michigan, John was instrumental in establishing a University teaching program at Glacier Hills for internal medicine residents and geriatric fellows in training.
After a career that included serving on committees and boards, writing and contributing to research papers, and giving talks, as well as managing a large clinical practice in cardiology and geriatrics, John retired in 2004. Being a person of faith, he continued being active in leadership at First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. He served as an elder for two terms. Having a special interest in the church’s outreach programs, he helped with its refugee resettlement effort. In the summer of 1982, John and Reda led 16 high school students on a three-week mission trip to Caracas, Venezuela to work and paint a school. He described it as a “once in a lifetime experience.”
Summers were spent with their family at their cottage in Bay View, Michigan, where he and Reda participated actively in the Chautauqua program. There was time for fishing and golf. For the last five years they have enjoyed living at Glacier Hills with its many activities and friendships new and old.
A long-time advocate of the importance of exercising, John walked outside or went to the gym twice a day. In the evenings, he enjoyed first reading medical journals, which he was still subscribing to when he died. Then came non-fiction or mysteries. His music of choice was classical or opera. Late in the evening, often Mahalia Jackson.
John was a person full of enthusiasm, energy, curiosity, kindness, and generosity. He will be missed greatly.
Dr. Santinga is survived by his wife Reda of 67 years; three children, John Thornton (Julie) Santinga, Jane (John) Voorhorst, and Peter (Dianne) Santinga; five grandchildren, Beatrice (Eric) Krutel, Elizabeth Santinga, Katherine Voorhorst (Justin Brown), Mary Voorhorst, and John “Jack” Santinga; step-grandson, Cameron Morris; and three great-grandchildren, Karina Brown, John Titus Brown, and Wyatt Krutel.