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Brinks, Herbert J. (1935-2011) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Brinks, Herbert J. (1935-2011)

Historical Note:

Herbert J. Brinks was born in the Dutch settlement town of South Holland, Illinois in 1935. Due to his surroundings, Brinks grew up learning about Dutch history and culture. Brink enrolled at Calvin College and entered their pre-seminary program. Brink soon realized that he did not have the natural inclination to become a seminary student, so he shifted his focus to history, English, and education. In 1957, two major events took place for Herb Brinks. First, he graduated from Calvin College and second, he married his high school sweetheart, Ruth Kortenhoeven.

After graduation, Brinks began teaching English and history at Allendale Christian High School and two years later teaching Latin at Unity Christian High School. In 1960, Brinks moved to Ann Arbor to further his education at the University of Michigan, and in 1962, he earned his M.A. in history. The same year, Brinks joined Calvin College's faculty as assistant professor of history. By 1965, Brinks earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and founded Heritage Hall at Calvin.

The foundation of Heritage Hall started by Brinks researching and tracking down material on Dutch immigration in North America. He also began to collect archival material on Calvin College, Seminary and the Christian Reformed Church. From its conception to his retirement in 1995, Brinks served as Heritage Hall's Curator. During his tenure as Archives Curator, Brinks oversaw the cataloguing and housing of important records of the College, Seminary and denomination as well as personal documents from ministers, professors, and Dutch immigrants. He managed to acquire a large number of letters written by Dutch immigrates to their family and friends in the Netherlands as well as travel accounts, memoirs and photographs, now known as the Immigrant Letters Collection. He used a sampling of these letters to publish two books, Write Back Soon, 1976 and Dutch American Voices, Letters from the United States 1850-1930, 1995.

From 1969 to 1971, Brinks took time away from Calvin to lecture at Michigan State University and operate as the director of the Historical Society of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When he returned to Calvin in 1972, he became a professor in the history department and continued to curate at Heritage Hall. In addition to his work at the archives, he began the publication of Origins, a magazine devoted to detailing the Dutch migration to America and the Christian Reformed Church. In 1989, he fully dedicated his time as the curator of Heritage Hall and editor of Origins until retirement.

Before and especially after his retirement, Brinks enjoyed serving the less fortunate members of the community. In 1989, he began to volunteer at Degage Community Center. Brinks organized Heartside Area Writers Club in 1991 for inner city residents who were interested in improving their reading skills. Also in Brinks' spare time, he enjoyed gardening and fishing. After a battle of myeloma, Herbert J. Brinks passed away on May 17, 2011. His wife, Ruth, their 4 children, and 7 grandchildren, survive him.

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