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WSC Announces Robert G. den Dulk Chair of Practical Theology

At its May 27, 2021, meeting the Westminster Seminary California Board of Trustees gratefully approved the establishment of the Robert G. den Dulk Chair of Practical Theology. Dr. Robert G. den Dulk served various important roles at WSC, including founder, Vice President for Administration, President, and Chairman of the Board. The WSC Board designated the new chair in Dr. den Dulk’s name to honor his lifetime of joyful, selfless service to Christ, his gospel, and his church.

Dr. den Dulk was born and raised in Ripon, California, where Dr. Cornelius Van Til was a frequent guest in his home. After graduating from Calvin College in 1959, Dr. den Dulk received his Bachelor of Divinity degree (later converted to Master of Divinity) from Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1964. The seminary would later confer upon him the Doctor of Divinity honoris causa in 2003. He went on to serve various administrative roles at Westminster, including Business Manager, Director of Administration, and finally Vice President for Administration. Seeing the need for a confessional Reformed seminary in the West, Westminster in Pennsylvania sent Dr. den Dulk and Dr. Robert Strimple (then vice president for academic affairs) to Southern California in 1979.

Serving as the administrative vice president, Dr. den Dulk played a vital role in establishing Westminster Seminary California. He and his dear wife, Nellie, labored tirelessly in the early years to spread the word of the new seminary to prospective students. Dr. den Dulk spearheaded the purchase of property in Escondido and the construction of the seminary’s first campus building, which opened in 1983. When Dr. Strimple resigned the WSC presidency in 1988 to focus on teaching, Dr. den Dulk agreed to serve as the seminary’s second president, making clear from the start that his tenure would be transitional. While president, Dr. den Dulk established the Elders Conference, led WSC in adopting the Three Forms of Unity to its confessional standards, and encouraged the faculty to publish A Testimony to our Time. Dr. W. Robert Godfrey succeeded Dr. den Dulk as WSC President in 1993.

After his tenure as president, Dr. den Dulk continued to champion WSC, including as a Trustee and Chairman of the Board, until he entered glory in 2007. In 1993, friends of the den Dulks established the Robert G. and Nellie B. den Dulk Lectures in Pastoral Ministry. These annual lectures, which continue to this day, bring seasoned pastors to campus to deliver special lectures on pastoral ministry. As WSC Professor Emeritus of Practical Theology Dr. Dennis Johnson wrote in Dr. den Dulk’s In Memoriam, “It is no exaggeration to say that the founding and flowering of WSC have been a labor of love into which Bob and Nellie together have poured their energies and delight for over a quarter century.” A portrait of Dr. den Dulk hangs prominently in the WSC library, under which a plaque reads, “A great leader and humble servant for Christ, his gospel, and his church.”

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, WSC President Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Church History, commented, “Bob den Dulk was warm, kind, and decent. He loved his family, especially his wife and partner, Nellie, and was a faithful friend. He loved his Savior and his church and had a strong and pious devotion to the Reformed faith in which he was raised. From the beginning of WSC, one of Bob’s passions was a strong department of practical theology to contribute to the education of faithful and effective pastors and preachers of Jesus Christ. How splendid that WSC should now have as a constant reminder and encouragement the Robert G. den Dulk Chair of Practical Theology. To God alone the glory.”