Photo courtesy of Calvin Engineering Dept.
Bob DeKraker, the longtime laboratory manager in the engineering department, died of cancer on Feb. 19 at the age of 65.
DeKraker worked at Calvin for over three decades and was the engineering department lab manager since 2001. Michelle Krul, the engineering department administrative assistant, recalled how carefully he took student safety: “I used to tease him that he should be an OSHA safety inspector. No one was going to be hurt or [be] injured in one of his labs, that’s for sure. Bob was meticulous about details that no one else saw.”
Krul also spoke to DeKraker’s passion for students, from assisting first-year students with launching their bottle rocket projects to aiding seniors with preparing their projects for senior design night.
“He always wanted the engineering students to shine on senior design night,” said Krul. “He made sure they had whatever was needed so the students could have the spotlight that one Saturday every May.”
In a reflection on DeKraker’s life posted on the Calvin website, department chair Gayle Ermer remembered how hard DeKraker worked to make sure that the annual bottle rocket launches went smoothly for students, saying, “He went above and beyond.”
“Bob had an influence outside the engineering department as well,” said chemistry professor Kumar Sinniah, who remembered DeKraker as someone who “showed his hospitality to the stranger.” When Sinniah came to Calvin in 1995, he needed to use several computers at the same time to analyze the 100,000 data files from his post-doctoral work. “Bob got me started in the engineering computer lab… and got the software I needed installed on five different computers so I was able to get all of my data analyzed,” Sinniah said. “He knew I was a new faculty member in chemistry, but he made a space for me to succeed.”
“Bob was a wonderful friend,” said Chuck Holwerda, the electronics shop technician. “We had lunch and afternoon breaks almost every day together for the past 19 years.”
Holwerda spoke about the importance of Christianity and his church community in DeKraker’s life, as well as his love for his family.
“He loved his family very much and talked a lot about his grandkids and how he really enjoyed being their grandpa,” Holwerda said.
In a campus-wide email on Feb. 20, President Michael Le Roy reflected DeKrakers many years of work. “Much of Bob’s work at Calvin over the past 31 years was done behind the scenes,” Le Roy wrote in his email. “But it’s work that didn’t go unnoticed.”