The Life and Stories of Arend D. Lubbers

Former Central College Presidents Arend D. “Don” Lubbers, Ken Weller and Irwin Lubbers share a moment outside Central Hall.

Former Central College Presidents Arend D. “Don” Lubbers, Ken Weller and Irwin Lubbers share a moment outside Central Hall.

Arend (Don) Lubbers, former Central College president, moved to Pella, Iowa, in 1934. He was three years old. His father, Irwin Lubbers, accepted the presidency of Central at that time and moved his young family from Wisconsin to live in the President’s residence at the college. Lubbers recalls growing up feeling uninhibited; he was able to play all over the house, roam town and explore campus to his heart’s content.

“Living in that house had a big impact on me, as did the campus,” he says. “I ran freely and was a student’s pet.”

The town itself also was a major influence in Lubbers’ formative years. With a population of less than 4,000, Lubbers felt he could go anywhere as a child. 

“We rode our bicycles through the whole town,” he reminisces. “So, the boundaries of my childhood were not binding in any way. They were not large, but they were big enough to give me a sense of freedom. At the same time, its boundaries were protective. All was well in the world.”

Lubbers grew up interested in life on Central’s campus, so when the opportunity to return to Central in 1959 as the vice president for development arose, he accepted.

“I think they remembered my father 15 years earlier. He was a great president for Central. He brought in excellent faculty, raised money and saved the college,” he muses. “So, they knew the family. They knew me as a kid. They probably thought, ‘Well, the old man did it, maybe the kid can, too.’”

Not long after he started at Central, the role of president was vacated. Though there were several worthy candidates, Lubbers included, no one accepted the position.

“I was told the faculty signed a petition asking the board to make me president,” he recalls.

So, at 29 years old, Lubbers accepted the role of Central College president, becoming the youngest collegiate president in the nation, which was “great publicity for the college.”

During Lubbers’ nearly nine years as president of Central, he helped increase enrollment exponentially; raised money for academic and capital necessities; and implemented a remarkable addition to beautify campus.

“I always believe that next to a satisfied student body, a beautiful campus is the best way to attract new students.”

— Arend D. Lubbers

His decision to add what was formerly fondly referred to as “Lubbers’ Lagoon” made quite the stir around town but is now the lovely focal point for campus and the community. 

Learn more of Lubbers’ stories — and read his personal insights throughout his life — in “The Journey” by Arend D. Lubbers.

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