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Dirkse, Thedford P. (1915-2006) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Dirkse, Thedford P. (1915-2006)

Historical Note:

Thedford (Ted) P. Dirkse was born on January 5, 1915 in Holland Michigan.  Dirkse attended Calvin College, graduating in 1936. He furthered his education at Indiana University, earning his masters and doctorate degrees.  In 1939, Iowa State University hired him as an instructor. After two years in Iowa, he spent another two as an assistant professor at Hamline University in St. Paul Minnesota.

From 1942 to 1946, Dirkse worked on battery research for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. Once World War II ended, he returned Hamline University for a year.  In 1947, Dirkse got the opportunity to return to Calvin College, not as a student, but rather as a faculty member. For 33 years, Dirkse served as a chemistry professor at Calvin, where he taught courses in analytical and physical chemistry as well as general and nursing chemistry. He was involved in many college committees such as educational policy, long-range planning, and academic standards committee. Dirkse also kept busy by writing articles in scientific journals like the Journal of the Electrochemical Society. Dirkse retired from Calvin College in 1980.

Dirkse’s research topic of choice was battery chemistry. In 1962, he even earned the prestigious Research Award from the Battery Division of the Electrochemical Society. Dirkse later became the chairman of the Battery Division in 1964. Much of his research in battery technology was sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research. One time even NASA depended on professor Dirkse’s extensive knowledge of electrochemistry when the Apollo 13 was in trouble. NASA sought Dirkse’s advice on how to get the most performance out the zinc batteries on the space shuttle for the astronauts to return safely home.

Dirkse also faced hardship in his life as well. His first wife was Frances Miller and together they had two daughters. Sadly, Frances passed away during childbirth, and their twin sons died soon after as well.  Dirkse was remarried to Ruth Imanse and together they had another two daughters. After 43 years of marriage, Ruth passed as well due to breast cancer.  He then married Theresa Vroon in 1995. Dirkse was a member of the Mayfair Christian Reformed Church where he served as an elder and deacon. At the age of 91, Ted Dirkse passed away on October 23, 2006.

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