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Timmer, Johanna (1901-1978) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Timmer, Johanna (1901-1978)

Historical Note:

Johanna Timmer was born in Graafschap, MI in 1901. Growing up Timmer received her education in a two-room country school and she attended a high school that was a three-mile walk through a woods in Holland, Michigan.  When Timmer graduated high school, she began to teach at a Christian School in Paterson, New Jersey. After a year of teaching, Timmer returned to western Michigan to attend Calvin College. Timmer was one of the first women to earn a B.A. degree from Calvin.  She then taught a year at Grand Rapids Christian School. At the age of 26 she was appointed the first Dean of Women at Calvin College. Although being the first Dean of Women was a prestigious honor, Timmer had her own hesitations before accepting the position.  Timmer had always envisioned herself working in the mission field, a dream of hers since she was a young girl. However, with much thought and prayer, she accepted the position.

Timmer would spend the next twelve years at Calvin as Dean of Women. Some of her male peers mocked her and some of her own male students did not take her seriously. However, many of her students and peers found her to be an excellent English teacher.  Even though she was a successful teacher at Calvin, Timmer still felt restless.  Her dream of serving the mission field still lingered inside of her.  Although she did not pursue mission work herself, Timmer opened the Reformed Bible Institute in 1940. The Reformed Bible Institute was a school dedicated to training its pupils for the mission field. Almost single-handedly, Timmer ran the RBI.  With the success of her institution, she was invited to help set-up a similar model in the Netherlands. Timmer would eventually become the principle of the Ripon Christian School in California in 1951. After many requests from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, she helped establish the first Christian High School, known as the Philadelphia Montgomery High School.

Timmer finally retired in 1963. She continued to stay busy after retirement by teaching Bible to women societies in Holland, Michigan. In 1978 Johanna Timmer died at the age of 76 at Holland Hospital.

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