The Kerkhof family’s ties to Redeemer can be traced back to even before it began.
“My church at the time was involved in a lot of conversations around starting a new Christian university or college,” says Jack Kerkhof ’86. “Eventually, that idea became a reality, so I first knew about Redeemer a number of years before it got off the ground.”
During its early years, Jack Kerkhof attended Redeemer as a mature student, setting off on a trajectory that was emulated by two of his children, siblings David Kerkhof ’96 and Julie Coolen ’98. Soon after, the same pattern was repeated by David Kerhof’s daughter, Marisa Kerkhof ’20, and Julie Coolen-Kerkhof’s sons Ethan Coolen ’22 and Noah Coolen ’24. Their individual choices to attend Redeemer proved to be the cement for an already strong faith foundation.
“My relationship with Jesus has been my anchor throughout my life,” says Julie Coolen. “Going to Redeemer helped lay the foundation to think critically, examine my faith and live it out in all aspects of my life. It was important for me to promote this to my boys.”
Redeemer’s mission played a huge role in affirming the Kerkhof’s Reformed Christian identity.
“Going to Redeemer helped lay the foundation to think critically, examine my faith and live it out in all aspects of my life.”
“It’s a very strong component of my theology today,” says Jack Kerkhof. “What I got from Redeemer’s academic community instilled something pretty strong in me that I carried into my life in the ministry.”
“Part of Redeemer’s mission is preparing students to integrate their faith into their future work,” says Ethan Coolen, who graduated this past May. “Getting my degree in psychology [at Redeemer] gave me a Christian perspective that I can actually use in the field at some point. As I move on to my master’s program, I think I’m well equipped to view psychological issues through the lens of faith that Redeemer has helped strengthen.”
Many Kerkhof family members have pursued or are pursuing careers geared toward helping others. Jack Kerkhof served as a pastor for many years before retiring, David Kerkhof is a police officer, Julie Coolen works for her local municipality in the Child Care and Early Years Department and Marisa Kerkhof is working toward a career in occupational and physiotherapy. Additionally, Ethan Coolen is pursuing a master’s degree in counselling and Noah Coolen, who’s still working towards his bachelor’s degree in psychology, is considering post-graduate studies following his Redeemer career.
“As the world continues to change, Redeemer needs to keep showing students how to live out Christianity in our day-to-day environments.”
“We’re all using our faith in our vocations,” says David Kerkhof. “The Reformed mindset tells us that the whole world belongs to God, and our responsibility as Christians is to carry out God’s mission in every role we take on.”
For Julie Coolen in particular, the choice to attend Redeemer seemed to come naturally.
“When our dad was going to Redeemer, it was still on Beach Boulevard. He’d work at the bookstore in the summertime, and us kids often got up to no good and ended up having to help the custodian,” she reflects. “David also spent a summer working at the Ancaster campus, so, when we eventually went to Redeemer, it felt very familiar. We can also relate to some of the kids’ experiences on campus, and that common thread helps strengthen our bond as a family.”
To continue to inspire future families and generations, the Kerkhofs believe that Redeemer needs to hold fast to its original foundation of unapologetic, committed Christian education that prepares graduates to pursue Kingdom-centred lives.
“As the world continues to change, Redeemer needs to keep showing students how to live out Christianity in our day-to-day environments,” says Marisa Kerkhof.
“I thank God that my children and their children are going into these kinds of roles,” says Jack Kerkhof. “They can make a difference in the world, and I think we need to give Redeemer some credit for that.”
Visit the 40th Anniversary website to view a historical timeline and a special video presentation celebrating 40 years of Redeemer.