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Bruinsma, Henry A. (1916-1991) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Bruinsma, Henry A. (1916-1991)

Historical Note:

Henry A. Bruinsma was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1916. It was said that  Bruinsma's love for music started at an early age.  As a preschooler, Bruinsma would eavesdrop on his older brother's piano lessons, and afterwards practices his brother's piano assignment.  When he was at high school age, Bruinsma chose to attend Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan as it was known for its prestigious music program. Bruinsma went on to attend college at the University of Michigan where he pursued a degree in music, and eventually earned a Ph.D. in musicology.

While at the University of Michigan, Bruinsma started to date Grace Hekman, and in 1939 they were married. The newlyweds moved to Durham, North Carolina for Bruinsma's new faculty position at Duke University. During World War II Bruinsma served overseas. Once he returned to the States, he began his career at Calvin College as professor of music. He taught music theory and composition as well as lead the Calvin band and orchestra. He also had the privilege to teach the first music and theology course at Calvin Seminary as well as chaired the first Conference on Liturgy of Music. Bruinsma had a personal interest in Dutch history and Dutch Reformed music. He was a member of Dutch Society for Musicology. Because of his membership, Calvin became the designated repository for modern Dutch music. During his tenure at Calvin, the library received rare and out-of-print publications of Dutch music from the middles ages and Renaissance. Bruinsma even took a year's leave of absence to do research on sixteenth century Dutch music under a grant he received. He served at Calvin from 1946 until 1955.

In 1959 Bruinsma accepted the role of Director of the School of Music at Ohio State University. He worked at Ohio State University until 1964, when he accepted the position of chair of the School of Music at Arizona State University. He went on to become the founding dean of the College of Fine Arts. He also started the first religious studies program at the university.  He remained at Arizona State University until resigning in 1975. Bruinsma also served as Dean of the School of Humanities and Arts at San Jose State University. Bruinsma passed away in 1991.  After his death, Grace sought out Gerry Bouma of Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. She wanted Bouma to catalog and publish Henry's personal music compositions that he never had time to publish during his life. The material consisted of 10,000 pages, and now his works are published and available for use and research. Another way Bruinsma still helps students today in the music field is the Henry Bruinsma family scholarship. This scholarship was set up in both Henry's and Grace's honor. The scholarship is for a student with financial needs majoring in music.

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