Dr. Jerome Van Kuiken, Dean of OKWU’s School of Ministry and Christian Thought, grew up as the son of a missionary and pastor, moving so often it’s difficult to think of any place as his native environment. But after ten years of service to Oklahoma Wesleyan, the campus and the community that surrounds it have become something new for him and his family: home.
“[Growing up], we moved every three years, two years, that sort of thing,” he said. “So I value stability [now].”
And just as Bartlesville has provided a stable home base for the Van Kuiken family, so has Dr. Van Kuiken provided a steady presence at the university, charming with his knowledge, wit, and genuine care. He assumed the role of Dean of the School of Ministry and Christian Thought in 2019, taking over from Dr. Mark Weeter, now the University Provost.
“The year we hired Dr. Van Kuiken, we had 35 qualified applicants come through in one month. The best decision we ever made was to hire Jerome,” Weeter said. “He combines a brilliant intellect with the ability to relate to students on all levels… We are very fortunate to have him as a faculty member at OKWU.”
“Studying theology is a way of refining, of helping students have a clear and correct understanding of what historic Christian belief has been across 2,000 years and across all sorts of cultures. There’s stability in that. There’s wisdom in that for today.”
Trained for Service
As mentioned, Van Kuiken was involved in ministry at an early age due to his family connections—in fact, he was born in the Philippines and spent most of his early life there. As he puts it, the biggest impact this had was to instill a global perspective, something that’s become incredibly valuable to him in ministry education.
“I was around Filipinos and also attended a missionary school there that had students from a variety of denominations and nationalities,” he said. “So it was a very eclectic mix of international students and even faculty, too. I think that it did give me this broader perspective on things that has been helpful in teaching and in relating to students who are from other cultures and nationalities.”
Van Kuiken’s family moved back to the United States in time for him to attend high school, and his father began pastoring. It was during this time that Van Kuiken began to feel a call to the ministry—not necessarily to pursue a pastorate, but to study and teach theological truth. When he graduated high school in Kentucky, attending Kentucky Mountain Bible College seemed like the logical next step. He met his wife at KMBC, who was herself a missionary kid, and they married after graduation. Van Kuiken went on to attend Wesley Biblical Seminary to receive his Master of Divinity. During his time in seminary, he felt his calling to teach affirmed even further by the Lord.
“Ever since seminary, I’ve really felt like teaching was primarily what I wanted to do and where my gifting was,” Van Kuiken said.
Over the course of the next ten years, he would serve in a variety of roles—as a professor at Bible schools in Iowa and Mississippi, as pulpit supply, as an adjunct teacher, and as an associate pastor. Then, in 2011, the role at OKWU opened up, and the family moved to Bartlesville.
For Van Kuiken, the draw to teaching is simple: he wants to continue to study and grow.
“I love to learn stuff, and I love to share what I learn,” he said. “I love to get students excited, and to see the value, the intellectual beauty, and then also the practical payoff of the Bible and theology.”
And it’s that exact trait that’s made Van Kuiken so popular with OKWU students—both inside the School of Ministry and Christian Thought and outside it. He’s able to capture the passion he has for the material and pass it on to those in his classes.
“When I was Dean, [Jerome] consistently scored the highest on the student evaluations,” Dr. Weeter said. “Which is no small feat when you teach General Education Bible classes that contain students who are required to take them.”
At the heart of Van Kuiken’s teaching philosophy is an understanding of how vital it is to pass on solid biblical truth to students today, especially due to the current landscape of culture.
“Because a lot of what students pick up from popular culture is either only partially true or flat incorrect, and because, unfortunately, a lot of what students get in their local church setting is pretty shallow, you can’t take for granted that they really understand what they believe or how it fits together,” he said. “And there are often misconceptions in there too. So studying theology is a way of refining, of helping students have a clear and correct understanding of what historic Christian belief has been across 2,000 years and across all sorts of cultures. There’s stability in that. There’s wisdom in that for today.”
OKWU’s not the only institution that appreciates Van Kuiken’s commitment—this year, he received the Delta Epsilon Chi Award from Kentucky Mountain Bible College. It’s given to Alumni of the Year by member schools of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, meant for KMBC alumni who demonstrate outstanding intellectual achievement, Christian character, and leadership ability throughout the years, representing the values of the university. This year, the vote for Dr. Van Kuiken was unanimous. Dr. Zane Darland, KMBC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, presented the award to him at a ceremony on campus.
“The faculty of Kentucky Mountain Bible College are proud of Dr. Van Kuiken’s accomplishments in the field of higher education,” Darland said. “And his passion to know God, to prepare others for Christian ministry, to live and teach the message of biblical holiness, and to evangelize, educate, and disciple the world for Christ.”
For Van Kuiken’s part, the award represents not just his own achievement, but a way to thank those who poured into his life as a college student. “To receive that honor was also a way to, in turn, honor those who’ve invested in me,” he said.
Oklahoma Wesleyan University is grateful for ten years of extraordinary service from Dr. Van Kuiken and is excited to share in the next decade of life-changing Christian education.
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