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Harold Paul Geerdes (1916-2002) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Harold Paul Geerdes (1916-2002)

Historical Note:

Harold Paul Geerdes was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 5, 1916. Geerdes attended Calvin College and graduated with an education degree in 1937. During his time at Calvin, Geerdes’ passion for music led him to be a part of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra. It was at the Symphony where Geerdes studied conducting under the Russian conductor Nikolai Malko in the 1940s.  Geerdes’ other passion, education, led him to a career as a music teacher at Christian and public schools. He also worked part-time at Calvin College as a music assistant. He also had a brief stint working at J. and J. Music Shop in Grand Rapids.

In 1955, Geerdes joined Calvin College’s faculty full-time as associate professor of music. He was very involved with Calvin’s music programs, he taught courses on conducting, acoustics, chamber music, and interim term courses. He also served on the programming committee for Calvin’s Fine Arts Center as well as the concert manager for the music department and directed the recording services on campus.  He served as conductor of the Calvin Band and Orchestra for twenty years. Geerdes also started the Knollcrest Music camp, which provided a summer day camp for students interested in music in grades 6 to 12. In 1967, Geerdes served as the director of the Calvin Oratorio Society.

Geerdes retired from the classroom in 1979. Although retired, Geerdes’ life was far from relaxing. The Saint Cecilia Music Society in Grand Rapids extended the position of executive director, which he gladly accepted. He also started his own acoustical firm. In 1992, Geerdes had the privilege of accepting the Faith-and-Learning Award, which is granted by the Calvin Alumni Association.

Geerdes passed away on April 4, 2002. His wife, Gladys, preceded him in death. He left behind his three children: Paul, Rick, and Judy. Geerdes memory lives on through the two scholarships at Calvin that bear his name.

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