Jeanne Visser | Staff Writer
It took a special school to lure Harlan DeVries out of retirement.
The 66-year-old Orange City resident was recently named interim principal at Western Christian High School in Hull.
He’s a familiar face in northwest Iowa, having served as principal at both Unity Christian and Sioux Center Christian. Last spring DeVries retired after a year as director of operations at Sioux Center Christian.
“I was thinking I’d be going into retirement at this time,” he laughed. “But the Lord led me to help out at Western.”
In April, Western’s principal, Dan Barkel, announced he had accepted a superintendent position at Marcus-Meridan-Cleghorn/Remsen-Union. Because there wasn’t much time to replace him, Western’s school board decided to hire an interim principal while they searched for the next principal.
The first time the board approached DeVries about the position, he was reluctant.
“I hesitated because I planned to retire,” he explained. “But I assured them that I would think about it and help them where I could. The second time they asked, I knew this is where God wanted me to be.”
“God has led me full circle,” he chuckled. “In 1974 I did my student teaching at Western. The school has changed quite a bit since then.”
DeVries grew up on a farm in the Pella area, the oldest of eight children. He graduated from Dordt College in 1974 and taught junior high science at Sioux Center Christian from 1974-87 while earning his master’s degree from the University of South Dakota.
He spent four years in school administration at Central Valley Christian School in Hartford, California, before returning to the area as principal at Edgerton Christian Elementary from 1991-2000.
He was principal at Unity Christian in Orange City until 2010 and then spent two years teaching online science courses at Alpha Omega Academy in Rock Rapids. The position of principal at Sioux Center Christian was his next job for four years before closing his career as director of operations at the school.
Last Thursday was his first day at Western.
“I certainly have a lot to learn, but stepping into this job is easy as far being familiar with the area and people,” DeVries explained. “A lot of the kids from Sioux Center Christian attend Western.”
He’s also been given some job “flexibility” by the school board.
“I have aging parents and I want to spend time with them and four of our five children live in the Des Moines and Pella area,” he said.
DeVries’ wife, Donna, grew up in Volga, South Dakota, and is in her 30th year at Dordt College. She currently serves as administrative assistant in the science department. The couple has 14 grandchildren.
If you have to delay retirement for a year, there’s no better place to work than northwest Iowa, according to DeVries.
“Education is very important to the people and culture here and it’s inspiring to be part of that and to promote it in this part of the country,” he stated. “I’ve learned to really appreciate Christian education and I’ve had the privilege of working in excellent Christian schools and alongside excellent public schools.
“I’m a principal because I love kids and appreciate watching them grow and develop, both physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s inspiring to see young people grow up and rewarding to see them take leadership positions in their family, school, church and community.”