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G.E. Boer (1832-1904)

Docent, 1876-1902


Geert Egberts Boer was born in Roderwolde, Drenthe, the Netherlands. A graduate of the Theological School at Kampen, the Netherlands in 1864, he served churches in Sappemeer and Niezijl, and accepted a call from the (First) Grand Rapids (Michigan) Christian Reformed Church in 1873. The denomination's General Assembly (Synod) called him to assume the first full-time instruction of theological students in 1876.

Since the General Assembly (now Synod) had not made provisions for a place of instruction, the Grand Rapids congregation offered the use of the second floor of its school on Williams Street for a nominal $52 annually rent.

On March 15, 1876, with Boer's own books as the library, the Theological School (now Calvin Theological Seminary) opened. The curriculum, modeled after that at the Theological School in Kampen, was six years long, divided evenly between literary and theological courses.

The 1880s saw the denomination grow from 12,200 members to 37,834, and a corresponding need for pastors. About one-half of the 36 ministers new to the denomination during the 1880s were graduates of the new Theological School. In 1884, as enrollment grew, Gerrit K. Hemkes joined the faculty. At the same time, Boer became convinced that in the United States Christian primary instruction was only possible in independent Christian day schools. To provide teachers for such schools, Boer was in the forefront of efforts to open the literary portion of the Theological School's curriculum to non-seminary students. This came in 1894 when Albertus J. Rooks and Klaas Schoolland joined the faculty to teach the literary courses.

In 1902, the 70 year-old Boer retired, at the time the school's enrollment stood at 78. Two years later, in apparent good health, he died from a heart attack. His wife Jetske Holtrop (1839-1926) and six of their eight children, E.H. Boer, Jessie Boer, Roelfina Boer, Gerard A. Boer, William Boer, and Lena Bruinooge, survived.