Benefactor Marv DeWitt dies at age 92

Marv DeWitt of Zeeland, Mich., the greatest benefactor in Northwestern College’s history, died Friday, Aug. 5, at the age of 92.

DeWitt and his wife, Jerene, gave over $6.75 million to the college, supporting every capital building project at Northwestern over the last 30 years. Buildings named in honor of them include DeWitt Theatre Arts Center, DeWitt Music Hall, DeWitt Physical Fitness Center and DeWitt-Cook Athletic Arena.

DeWitt got involved with Northwestern College in 1978 at the encouragement of his Reformed church pastor. He served on Northwestern’s Board of Trustees for nine years and was one of the leaders in convincing the college to move ahead with the construction of the chapel and music facility in the mid-1980s despite the Midwest farm crisis.

“Through their gifts, Marv and Jerene have shaped our campus,” says Greg Christy, Northwestern’s president. “But the impact they have made on Northwestern goes well beyond just their philanthropy. The challenge they gave to others to also support Northwestern and the encouragement they provided college leaders for decades have been invaluable. Marv loved Northwestern, and he saw that the college was empowering students to follow Christ and pursue God’s redeeming work in the world. He brought a positive, ‘can-do’ attitude to the Northwestern board and administrators, and he will be dearly missed.”

DeWitt, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Northwestern at the dedication of Christ Chapel and DeWitt Music Hall in 1988, said in 2003 that he enjoyed giving toward brick-and-mortar projects. “When you build something, it lasts a long time and impacts generations of students who go on to make a difference in the world.”

DeWitt and his brother, Bill, began raising turkeys in 1938 on their parents’ farm north of Zeeland, Mich. Starting with just 17 turkeys, BilMar Foods grew to become one of the nation’s largest turkey processors before it was purchased by the Sara Lee Corporation in 1987.

The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Community Reformed Church in Zeeland, Mich. Visitation will be 2–5 p.m. on Aug. 8 and 5–8 p.m. on Aug. 9 at Community Reformed Church.

Among DeWitt’s survivors are his wife, Jerene; seven children; 23 grandchildren; and 62 great-grandchildren.