NWC benefactor DeWitt dies at age 93

Jerene DeWitt of Zeeland, Mich., who with her late husband, Marv, was the greatest benefactor in Northwestern College’s history, died Tuesday, March 26, at the age of 93.

The DeWitts gave over $7.1 million to the college, supporting every capital building project at Northwestern during 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.

Marv 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.

 “Marv and Jerene loved the Lord and gave generously of their time, talent and resources,” says Greg Christy, Northwestern’s president. “Their gifts shaped our campus, but their impact went well beyond philanthropy. The challenge they gave to others to also support Northwestern and the encouragement they provided college leaders for decades have been invaluable. Their legacy of giving lives on in their children, as evidenced by their son, Jack, and his wife, Mary, who have made the principal gift for our new learning commons.”

Marv 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.

Funeral arrangements for Jerene DeWitt are being handled by Yntema Funeral Home of Zeeland. A memorial service is being planned for April 12. Marv DeWitt preceded her in death on Aug. 5, 2011.