Personal Story and Family

Derek and Carina Schuurman I grew up in a northern suburb of Toronto where I developed early interest in electronics and ham radio. My wife, Carina, grew up in the Netherlands on a dairy farm ("boerderij") in the province of Utrecht. My wife and I met while we were still undergraduate students; she was a student at the new campus of Redeemer College while I was studying engineering at the University of Waterloo. In those days, I traveled frequently between Waterloo and Redeemer in my trusty, brown, nondescript, 1981 Dodge Omni.

Derek and robot My wife graduated from the first education class at Redeemer College and went on to teach in the small town of Drayton, Ontario where we lived for a time. During this time I worked as an engineer in Waterloo, Ontario for two small tech startups where I learned a great deal developing new embedded products in a fast-paced environment. It was during this time I began to think more about what my faith had to do with my work as an engineer. If it were possible now, I would write a letter of encouragement to myself as a young engineer. During this time I also completed a masters degree and our first child was born. In subsequent years we were blessed with three more children, all of whom later attended Redeemer University.

Derek at Redeemer
Dordt College
Calvin University
Gradually I discerned a call to teaching, and we moved to Hamilton, Ontario where I completed my PhD at McMaster University in the area of robotics and computer vision. After grad school, I began working fulltime at Redeemer College (a sister-college of Calvin) where I taught for many years. It was at Redeemer that I came to appreciate the importance of a solid liberal arts core program, also for those studying in fields like computer science. I taught for many years at Redeemer until we found ourselves facing change. We spent a year in Sioux Center where I worked as a visiting professor at Dordt College and then we moved to Grand Rapids where I began teaching at Calvin College (now University). The summer of our move to Grand Rapids was an eventful one - two of our children were married within weeks before we moved.

The Bible tells us that God has chosen the "time and place" in which we live (Acts 17:26). I am grateful that I was born in a time that brought the invention of the first computer on a chip, the introduction of the first personal computers, the Internet, and many other exciting technologies that have since changed the world. I tinkered with many of the early personal computers beginning with a Timex Sinclair ZX-81 (which I purchased with money earned from my paper route) and other early personal computers like the Vic-20, C-64, Commodore PET, and early IBM PC's. I am grateful that my vocation eventually brought me to a place where I was encouraged to think more deeply about how how faith informs our work in technology. I am also grateful that my earlier years of tinkering as a hobbyist could inspire some of my later work with platforms like the Raspberry Pi, including being able to share my delight in computing with folks in various majority world countries.

Schuurman family I am also the son and grandson of Dutch immigrants to Canada. The picture on the right shows my family and I standing in the Grote Markt (large market) in front of the Martini Toren in Groningen, the Netherlands. This was the home-town of my paternal grandparents and where my father was born before they immgrated to Canada. My father has childhood memories of the Canadians liberating the city during the second world war. My grandfather ("Opa") later became the first employee at the Voortman bakery. Each time he made a return trip to Holland he would say: "Ik mot even onder the Martini toren stoan." The Martini tower offers a great view over the city and surrounding area.

My maternal grandparents originally came from the island of Rozenburg in South Holland. The windmill at the center of Rozenburg was built by my great-great grandfather. My maternal grandparents were among the first wave of post-war Dutch immigrants to arrive in Canada in 1947. They eventually settled in Hamilton, Ontario, where they started a wholesale business selling potatoes. My grandparents helped establish some of the first Christian schools in Hamilton where later our children (their great-grandchildren) would attend. My cousin wrote a song called A Dollar and a Suitcase, based loosely on a story about my grandmother and my aunt.

I did not attend Calvin, but several members of my extended family as well as many of my former teachers graduated from Calvin. Many Canadian students who studied at Calvin in 1960's-1970's were part of the Groen club. This club was led by H. Evan Runner, a Calvin philosophy professor who inspired many students, several of whom would later become the pioneering faculty at the newly-formed Redeemer College in Ontario.

Things have come full circle as I find myself teaching at Calvin. Frankly, much of what I have learned about being a Christian scholar was from teachers and colleagues who attended Calvin, and so I am delighted to work at a school that has indirectly shaped me in so many ways. My hope is that I can help equip another generation of students to think deeply, act justly, and live wholeheartedly as agents of renewal in the area of technology.