English department co-chair dies unexpectedly


Photo by Colleen Keehl.

English professor William Vande Kopple passed away unexpectedly Wednesday morning, according to a post on the English department’s Facebook page.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a week ago and was planning to undergo treatment.

The news comes two days after music department chair Bert Polman passed away after an extended battle with cancer.

Vande Kopple graduated from Calvin in 1972 and taught at Calvin for more than 30 years.

“Since joining the English department in 1980, Bill was a great and gracious presence among us: he was a much-loved professor, a prolific scholar, a wise mentor and a good friend,” said co-chair Elizabeth Vander Lei in a statement.

Visitation will be held at Zaagman Memorial Chapel from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Sunday. The funeral will be held at Alger Park Christian Reformed Church on Monday at 1 p.m.

“Losing Bill leaves us all feeling more than a little lost. While we do not grieve as those without hope, we do struggle to imagine the department — the world — without Bill a part of it,” Vander Lei continued.

Vander Lei also commented on Vande Kopple’s love for students focused on becoming high school English teachers.

“His greatest joy was working with students, particularly English secondary education students,” she said. “His fine teaching is echoed in the teaching of these students, and through their teaching Bill continues to shape young people’s lives.”

“Bill demonstrated an uncanny knack to see the best in all of us, and he encouraged us all, students and faculty, to find joy in our work together,” she continued.

Bill leaves behind his wife, Wanda; his sons Jon (Tiffany), Joel, and Jason; and his grandson, Kincaid.

This article will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.