Van Peursem receives staff recognition award

Randy Van Peursem, science support services professional at Northwestern College, has been named the 2009 recipient of the college’s Staff Recognition for Inspirational Service Award. The award was announced at Northwestern’s Spring Recognition Banquet on April 21.

As the recipient, Van Peursem receives a $500 honorarium funded by the Alumni Association, a plaque, and a luncheon for him and his coworkers. The honor is given to recognize staff who consistently provide outstanding contributions by going above and beyond what is expected, personify a strong Christian commitment, and distinguish themselves as an inspiration to the campus community. Northwestern employees nominated candidates, and a selection committee—which included a faculty member, a representative of the Student Government Association, three previous winners of the award and another staff member—selected Van Peursem.

Van Peursem graduated from Northwestern in 1992 with majors in biology and chemistry. He studied medicine at the University of Iowa for two years before severe allergies and dysautonomia, a disease of the autonomic nervous system, forced him to withdraw. He began tutoring at Northwestern part time in 1996 and has been full time since 2006.

As coordinator of the academic support department’s science center, Van Peursem works with about 70 tutors who assist students in biology, chemistry, physics and nursing classes. He also serves as an academic adviser to about 60 biology majors, including students enrolled in health-related pre-professional programs.

“Randy is a true example of a person who links his faith to his work,” wrote Dr. Laurie Furlong, associate professor of biology, in a letter of nomination. “His dedication to students and their learning goes far beyond what is required. He works hard because he truly cares for students and wants to help them be successful. He shows compassion for all students and spends extra time with those who are struggling. Students love and respect Randy because he is intelligent, approachable and has a servant’s heart.”

Van Peursem’s supervisor, Director of Academic Support Tom Truesdell, emphasized Van Peursem’s caring spirit toward students in his nomination letter. “In my seven years at Northwestern, I have yet to hear Randy say ‘no’ to anyone. What is even more impressive about his commitment is the significant health-related challenges he must deal with. He uses his free time for recovery so he is able to be as productive as possible at work. I am certain the main reason science students are always studying in or hanging around our office is because they know Randy cares about them.”

Dr. Elizabeth Heeg-Truesdell, assistant professor of biology, wrote that Van Peursem balances his role of being an advocate for students and an assistant to professors extremely well. “He has a gift of being able to inspire students and professors alike. His dedication to his work has been inspirational for me to work harder and always look for additional things I could be doing to improve the Northwestern experience.”

Students describe Van Peursem as a mentor, encourager and friend. Last year students in Organic Chemistry showed their appreciation by printing T-shirts that featured a photo of him. Twenty-two students took time to submit endorsements for Van Peursem’s 2009 staff award nomination.

“Randy is passionate about helping people,” wrote senior Tyler De Jong. “He guides students through problems, both in the sciences and in real life. He seeks to be like Christ by sacrificing his time and even risking his health to be with students.”

“Randy patiently and expertly explains answers to questions in the way each student learns best,” wrote senior Erin Brogan. “He never gets frustrated with students having a difficult time, and he is more than willing to give us extra time. Randy is a true testament to Christian servanthood, never asking for recognition for his excellent help.”

Senior Robben Schat wrote, “Randy has a unique mix of humility, humor, savvy and dedication that makes him easy to approach and gives people confidence in his ability to solve a problem. He has devoted himself to helping students succeed like no one else on campus.”