Meet the Duinincks: a Bethel family legacy five decades deep

Hailing from the small town of Prinsburg in central Minnesota, the Duinincks have sent 28 family members—and counting—to Bethel over the last five decades.

By Monique Kleinhuizen '08, GS'16, content specialist

April 12, 2024 | 2 p.m.

Pam Van Eps on nursing trip

Pamela (Duininck) Van Eps ’85 at Hospital Vozandes in Quito, Ecuador

Three Duininck brothers started a road construction business in Prinsburg, Minnesota, nearly a century ago. Duininck Companies has become a household name in central Minnesota, and the sprawling family has done the same on Bethel’s campus.

Starting in the late 1970s, there have been a total of 28 Duinincks to attend Bethel. They’ve spanned many majors, played many sports, pursued graduate and seminary degrees—and five married other Bethel alumni. There's a current Board of Trustees member in the group: Dawn Marcus ’84 is married to Ross Marcus '84, whose mother Shirley was a Duininck. Mitch Duininck ’81 was named College of Arts & Science Alumnus of the Year in 2017. Between all of them, there haven’t been many years without at least one Duininck in a Bethel program in the last five decades. 

“When you go back to our grandparents—Henry and Cora, Wilbur and Nellie—there are really two core families with Bethel connections,” explains Jeremy Duininck ’93, a business alumnus who also played hockey for the Royals and is now chief culture office for Duininck Companies. “If I look across my parents’ generation, none of them went to Bethel. Then there’s my generation, and all of a sudden, Bethel became the university of choice. Some family trees are deep in terms of the number of generations–our Bethel legacy is much more horizontal.” 

Jeremy recalls how Vespers and small groups helped to shape his faith, and the impact that Professor of Business Brian Holland and football coaches Michael Plinske and Steve Johnson had on him during his college years. Bethel was a common educational foundation of several Duininck cousins who now work together at the family’s business.

"I’ve continued to be so encouraged by the people I meet on the staff and faculty. I’ve gotten to know President Ross Allen, and love his guidance and influence on the direction of the school and its commitment to Christian values. And as a business, we like the character of Bethel students, and seek to recruit them for positions in our family business."

— Jeremy Duininck ’93

Years later, a few of his Bethel connections are still there, and some are new. “I’ve continued to be so encouraged by the people I meet on the staff and faculty. I was classmates with Bethany Opsata, who is now leading the business department, and Katie Koehn and Jen Scott in the alumni office. I’m very encouraged by Coach Chris McKelvie and the focus of the men's hockey program on hockey excellence as well as spiritual development. I’ve gotten to know President Ross Allen, and love his guidance and influence on the direction of the school and its commitment to Christian values. And as a business, we like the character of Bethel students, and seek to recruit them for positions in our family business,” Duininck adds.

Jeremy’s second cousin Trevor ’99 and Janey (Mulder) Duininck ’99 were both business majors and multi-sport athletes. Their daughter Colette “Coco” ’26 is following in their footsteps as a business major and basketball player. Trevor says that while the political climate, technology, and demographics have changed the college experience nationally since he and Janey were students, they’ve observed Bethel continuing to play a vital role in their daughter’s life. 

“Cultural changes have emphasized the unchanging need for connection and relationship—in a way that Bethel can really deliver,” he says. He hopes Bethel continues to build on a strong vision and strategy for thriving in the competitive, private liberal arts space so it can “continue to graduate spiritually strong, academically prepared young adults.” 

Pamela (Duininck) Van Eps ’85 was part of Bethel’s second graduating class in Bethel's nursing department. She recalls trying out new clinical sites for the brand-new nursing major and learning how to navigate the changing landscape of healthcare at the time. She was part of a "Cultural Diversity in Nursing” January course in Ecuador, where she had the unique experience of working with an international, multilingual staff of missionary doctors and nurses. By the time she graduated, she was in high demand at United Hospital because of the great reputation Bethel nursing students and professors had already built through the clinical partnership there.

"Because of our own experience, we had confidence that our sons would develop healthy relationships with professors and peers who shared a common faith."

— Pamela (Duininck) Van Eps ’85

Pamela and her husband Brad—who attended Bethel for three years—have sent three of their four sons to Bethel, and they’ve enjoyed the quality and consistency of their experience as Bethel parents.

“I recall dropping them off during Welcome Week and experiencing the enthusiastic welcome from the staff. Two of our sons participated in athletics, and it was reassuring to know they were in good hands, with coaches who were amazing role models and mentors,” Pamela says. “Because of our own experience, we had confidence that they would develop healthy relationships with professors and peers who shared a common faith.” 

Their son, environmental science major Andrew Van Eps ’12, shares a particularly moving experience he had with a professor, during his History of the American West course. They were tackling some hard topics, specifically the brutal policy and atrocities committed against Native Americans in the 19th century. 

“The professor put on a movie, and in the middle of it, I looked back to where she was sitting, and she had tears streaming down her face as she was watching the movie for what was likely her hundredth time,” he says. “I remember thinking how special it was to be led by people who care so strongly…who wrestle with the past, and how it defines our present and shapes our future. My hope is that Bethel continues to be led by amazing, engaging professors who are able to not only teach at a really high academic level and push students intellectually, but are also able to incorporate Christ into every aspect of that process and help nurture a Christ-centric perspective.”

Tyler Van Eps '09 recalls a J-term trip to Greece and Turkey, where 25 students followed in the footsteps of the Apostles. "Amazing how much the New Testament comes alive when you're standing in the places you read about in Scipture," Tyler says. He adds that his hope for Bethel is that it "continually refreshes its commitment to biblical truth...and boldly brings the good news into many spheres and sectors."

Their brother, biokinetics major Jordan Van Eps ’15, shares about the deep friendships he and his wife Jenna (Barkey) Van Eps ’15 formed with other Bethel students. Jenna’s mother, coincidentally, graduated with Pamela in the 1980s, and also majored in nursing. Jordan and Jenna’s group of friends have built careers, gotten married—many also to Bethel alumni—and started families in the decade since graduation. Family ties aside, the couple has appreciated the lifelong support and encouragement they’ve found through the Bethel community. For 13 years, since their freshman year at Bethel, the guys have gone on an annual ski trip together to slow down and reconnect amidst ever-crazier schedules. The women take their own regular trips, with spouses trading off on childcare duties.

“The friendships change as families move and grow, but they still remain rooted in faith, supportive in facing life’s joys and challenges, and emboldening us to live out the Gospel and share that love with others,” Jordan says. “It’s unique how close we have stayed throughout the years, thanks to God's faithfulness.” 

Each family member has his or her own Bethel story, but several components of the Bethel experience—a deep commitment to faith, top-quality academics, values-centered athletics, and profound relationships among students and faculty—keep the Duinincks coming back for more.

Jordan Van Eps '15 on annual ski trip

From left to right: (top) Jordan Van Eps '15 (married Jenna Barkey '15), Joe Hook '15 (married Kim Wegehaupt ‘15), Blake Anderson '15 (married Mollie Jacobsen '15), Josh Hook '13, Braden Anderson '14 (married Danae Johnson '15), Bjorn Bloom '15, Steiner Johnson '18, Ben Hanson '15, (bottom) Michael Tebon (married Christina Johnson '15), Matt Kruger (married Danielle McGallvery '15), Nik Anderson '15 (married Megan Bode '19), Craig Henkel ’15 (married Michelle Laberge '16), Harry B

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