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Harry Ter Maat 1976

As I reflect over my life, many of my most memorable life-changing experiences and dearest lifelong friendships were formed while attending Central College. I am forever thankful for those four years of my life.

I grew up in Central Wisconsin, on a small dairy farm near Wisconsin Rapids. My family attended, and I was the first son of the Faith Reformed Church to enter the ministry. I believe that the Lord had a hand in my attending Central because I decided on college with the intention to explore ministry possibilities with only two weeks before the start of the Fall semester. Interestingly, another son of my church, Mr. Jim Brandl, who at the time, was director of Central’s computer department and family friend, received my last-minute phone call to inquire about attending Central. Mr. Brandl responded that he would work out the enrollment details and simply told me to come on down. I arrived on orientation day and was assigned to Hoffman Hall under the wings of the dorm directors Art and Diane Alt, who are two of the most caring and loving people I know. It was an exciting time of my life and the start of many adventures.

I majored in psychology and perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced, but my professors, Dr. Jim Schulze, Ed Willis and Dan Bergman were true leaders in the field. They each went above and beyond to demonstrate genuine care and concern for every student. They impacted my thought process to be a better human being. I particularly remember evening small group discussions at the Bergman home with delicious treats and warm fellowship. Lessons learned at Central guided the way I approach life. I received a bachelor’s degree at Central and a Master of Divinity degree at New Brunswick theological Seminary in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1979.

I have so many memorable Central experiences that I still cherish to this day, including the brotherhood I formed with the Phi Delta Tau fraternity. At the time we had a big blue fraternity house on campus and I fondly recall working together on the Annual Homecoming Decorations Competition, which were amazing. Another lasting friendship was with Bill Hinga, dean of students. Dean Hinga was a wonderful and compassionate person, who would often ask me why the Phi Delts had so many beer cans in our dumpster. Because the school had a no drinking on campus policy, the only plausible answer I could come up with was that because we took pride in Pella, we picked up litter on our way back from our nightly social visits to the Grill.

My senior year I was elected president of the student government. It was a highlight and an honor for me to serve. It provided me an opportunity and privilege to spend the summer of my junior year working for the development office, traveling around the country representing the college and working for Mr. Gary Timmer, vice president for development and Dr. Ken Weller, president of the college. Both gentlemen were incredible mentors and true examples of the very best qualities. They taught me to dream bigger, be positive and never give up.

Almost six years ago, I retired from a 30-year career in the United States Army, both active and reserve as a chaplain which was one of the most rewarding ministries one could possibly experience. San Antonio, Texas, has been my home for the past 11 years. I live here with my wonderful, supportive wife, Marilyn. We celebrated 42 years of marriage, Aug. 3. Six months ago, we moved into the Army Residence Community, a senior retirement community, which provides meals and maid service and a range of daily social activities. It’s almost like living on a cruise ship but docked in only one port. Central prepared me well to enjoy this stress-free living.

Spending a semester in Mérida, Yucatán, was another life-changing experience. It was my first opportunity to travel and live outside of the country. My wife and I have a passion for travel, especially ocean cruises. We have been to nearly every port in the seven continents of the world that a cruise ship stops at. I often think that I should have joined the Navy instead of the Army because I love being at sea, enjoying sunrises and sunsets while encountering new cultures around the world. The serenity of the Antarctica and the Arctic polar cap are unmatched. The beauty of Hawaii is still my favorite place in the world; we lived there briefly in our early working days.

A principle I learned while at Central which has guided me throughout my life: Never let studying get in the way of your education. Don’t let work get in the way of living. Life is simply too short. One never knows when it will end or when your health will fail and prevent you from doing what you had planned. Enjoy your time at Central and enjoy your life to the fullest.

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  • Jan Massie Boyd

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    7:54 am on December 2, 2019

    Thanks for sharing , Harry! Likewise, I enjoyed many of the mentioned staff and administration and time in Merida. Great memories! I am the widow of one of your fellow ministry students, Rich Boyd.

  • Julie Kirk

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    9:42 pm on November 20, 2019

    Harry, I am not sure if you remember that rainy Sunday in September, 1973 when you came up to a sad, teary-eyed, homesick freshman girl by the pond. That was me…and I will never forget how you helped me that day. It does not surprise me that you went into the ministry, and I’m sure you were an amazing Army chaplain! My four years at Central were some of the most memorable too–thanks for sharing your story and continue to live life to the fullest!

  • Larry Happel

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    10:04 am on November 20, 2019

    What a great update! Really nice to hear from you, Harry. A great perspective. I enjoyed working with you at Central long ago,

  • Mark Walther

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    8:07 pm on November 19, 2019

    Harry – this is a wonderful summary of your experiences at Central many of which we have in common. Thank you for reporting in even after all these years.
    Mark Walther ‘78 TKA