History on paper

Diplomas from Western Academy in 1929 were much bigger than modern-day diplomas. This diploma is kept in the Western Christian High School development director’s office. 

HULL—Almost one century has passed since Western Christian High School in Hull opened its doors to young minds.

What started in a three-story house on Main Street has turned into a well-known private school.

The school will celebrate its 100th anniversary Aug. 9-11, and development director Wes Fopma is leading the way.

“As we get closer and closer to the date, more of my time is involved,” he said.

One of the big aspects Fopma is working on is a book commemorating the 100 years of the school.

He has been poring over archived newsletters — some which are written in Dutch — and old yearbooks, called “The Strums.” Fopma said “The Strums” was selected in 1923 because the students wanted to “strike the proper chords which shall blend together into one harmonious strain, interpreting the ideal and the endeavors of Western Academy.”

Western Christian graduates Kyle Hoogendoorn, Emily Mulder and Kelly Vander Pol are helping put the 100th anniversary book together.

The goal is to have the book available and ready for purchase by August. All proceeds will benefit Western Christian.

Kicking off the anniversary is the annual Western Christian Booster Club Golf Tournament on Friday, Aug. 9, at the Ridge Golf Course in Sioux Center. The athletics will continue the morning of Saturday, Aug. 10, with a 5K run, followed by a rehearsal of the Western Christian Alumni Choir, led by Bill Bird, who was Western Christian’s choral director 1969-91. The alumni choir will perform at the All School Banquet and Program that evening in the Event Center.

An open house and tours of the school will be offered Aug. 10. There will be memorabilia and newspaper clippings in various rooms and refreshments will be provided.

The celebration will conclude Sunday, Aug. 11, with an afternoon worship service led by the Rev. Cliff Hoekstra, a 1974 Western Christian graduate.

Fopma said the staying power of Western Christian is attributed to the commitment by parents who want to provide their children with a Christian education. That commitment and support has helped the school grow, and overcome difficulties.

“In 1934, during the Depression, the school went bankrupt,” Fopma said. “Individuals came forward and wanted to see the school continue. The school was reorganized and reopened in the fall of 1934.”

Before the bankruptcy, the school was known as Western Academy. When it opened again, the name was changed to Western Christian High School.

That is not the only name change the school has had. Before the summer of 1996, Western Christian athletes were known as the “Indians.” The school went without a mascot until 2005 when “Wolfpack” was adopted.

Being in existence for 100 years, there has been significant changes to the structure. The school moved out of the three-story house and into a facility with classrooms in 1924.

“It was very modern for its time,” Fopma said. “The remnants of it are here currently. We’ve done a lot of renovations and additions. God’s faithfulness to the school has been amazing.”

The 1924 structure was renovated and 20,000 square feet were added in 1995. The facility was made more handicapped accessible and an elevator was installed.

A new entrance and lobby was added, and the auxiliary gymnasium was renovated into an event center in 2015. In fact, hanging on a wall inside Fopma’s office is artwork made from the auxiliary gymnasium floor. Fopma said when the renovations were done, it was determined the old floor would not handle the new bleachers to be installed. The old flooring was torn up and sold in pieces. Fopma purchased a piece, and had the current and former mascots painted on the wood planks, along with the Western Christian logo. The planks then were framed and grace Fopma’s office as one big wall hanging.

The remaining pieces were auctioned off as Fopma said it was thought that people would like to have a piece of the old gymnasium. After all, the athletic prowess of the Wolfpack has garnered numerous state championship titles in boys and girls basketball, football, volleyball and cross country. Being excellent in sports and other programs is something people think of right away when they think of Western Christian comes to mind, Fopma said.

“We have good athletic teams, good music programs and theatrical arts,” he said. “But we are more than that.”

Western Christian alumni have had profound impacts on their communities, Fopma said.

“We have had Randy Feenstra, who is a state senator and is now running for Congress,” he said. “Scott Wynja, the city administrator of Sioux Center, went to Western Christian.”

Fopma also spoke of Sam Kooiker, the Sheldon city administrator and former mayor of Rapid City, SD, who graduated from Western Christian High School.

“These people are having tremendous impact on the communities that they live and serve in,” he said.