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M. Howard Rienstra (1931-1986) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: M. Howard Rienstra (1931-1986)


Historical Note:

M. Howard Rienstra (1931-1986) was born in Warren Point, New Jersey, orphaned at age five and adopted at age ten.  Rienstra was educated in the Christian schools of Paterson, New Jersey, Calvin College, and the University of Michigan.  His area of specialization was the Italian Renaissance, which drew him on several scholarly ventures to Italy.  However, his intellectual travels as reflected in his papers were universal indeed.  Thus, his papers contain valuable insights into the activities of Calvin College during his tenure in the history department from 1957 to 1986.  A large portion of the collection reveals his intense involvement in civic affairs during his thirteen-year stint as Commissioner in the city of Grand Rapids.  Moreover, because of his keen interest in civil rights, the Rienstra papers bring together not only his contributions to the Michigan Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights but also many significant articles and papers on this subject.  His own articles and speeches cover topics as varied as the “Christian Philosophy of History” to “Racism in Grand Rapids.”  As the first director of the H. H. Meeter Calvinism Research Center (1983-1986), Rienstra brought together his linguistic talent, his love for John Calvin, his historical sensitivity, his administrative ability, and his dream of building a Calvin collection par excellence.

In sum, the Rienstra collection mirrors the sobriquet “A Renaissance Man” often given him on the Calvin College campus.  The papers reveal admirably the life and work of a man dedicated to God and the service of man.

M. Howard Rienstra passed away due to cancer. He died on June 16, 1986. His wife, Mary, and their seven children survived him.






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