Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Hans Wynberg and Hope College

In spring 1965, Prins Bernhard of the Netherlands visited Hope College in an event organized by Bill Wichers. Wichers was secretary of the Hope Board of Trustees, nephew of 6th Hope president Winant Wichers, and a special envoy for the Dutch ambassador in Holland, Michigan. One was never sure what that meant except that he made annual trips to the Netherlands during which he, among other things, bought the windmill that Holland has long admired called De Swaan. Bill had a number of friends across the Netherlands, and when we went there in 1968, he gave me a series of introduction letters. We used at least two of these, entertaining his Dutch friends for dinners on occasion.

Prins Bernhard managed to leave a scholarship at Hope for Dutch students. In fall 1966, the first Bernhard scholar arrived. His name was Johannes Huber.  Hans Wijnberg, professor of chemistry at the University of Groningen apparently knew Huber’s family and had something to do with Huber choosing Hope for a year. Hans was a Dutch Jew who had been sent to the United States in 1938 with his twin brother, Lewis, because their parents widely anticipated what became the Holocaust a year later. The Wijnbergs (spelled Wynberg in English) were hoteliers in Holland, and visible. So they were among the early targets of the Germans. All of Hans’ family perished during the war.

Frederick Mayer NYTimes Obituary, with photo of Hans Wynberg Frederick Mayer NYTimes Obituary, with photo of Hans Wynberg Hans was exceedingly bitter when I knew him. He talked to those of us that knew him well about his experiences during the war, and had a least one newspaper clipping describing the Greenup experience that he was proud to show visitors, covered extensively in Patrick O'Donnell's They Dared Return. Hans was the radio operator in the group of three American soldiers that dropped into the Tyrol in February 1945.

The death of Frederick Mayer reported in the NY Times on April 23, 2016 tells, again, the story of Operation Greenup. Wijnberg is pictured at the bottom of the three soldiers.

Wijnberg’s connection to Hope was indirect, but real. After I left the University of Kansas in August, 1963, Earl Huyser told me that he had been awarded an National Science Foundation Senior Faculty Fellowship to study at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Wijnberg had established a presence by the time Earl accepted the Fellowship in autumn 1964 so Huyser and his family managed to conveniently go back to their country of origin to live.

The reputation of the Dutch departments of chemistry was quite unknown to us in the United States, but Earl’s decision to go to Groningen surely helped it.  Though I had gone to the Chapel event at Hope in which Prins Bernhard was awarded an honorary degree, I was not involved in any way. I must have known there was a Bernhard scholarship but did not know who the scholar was.

I was surprised then, on one late Friday afternoon, to meet this stranger walking in the Science Building at Hope, and to discover that his name was Hans Wijnberg. I had heard of him but never met him. So I asked him if would like to give a seminar and he declined saying he had other dinner plans but that he “was there to see how Huber was getting along.”

By this time, Paul Schaap had worked over two years in my labs, and I had pretty much decided there was not too much more for him to gain by working at Hope. I wrote Wijnberg a letter and asked if he would like to make a position available for Paul Schaap in spring 1967.  He affirmed that he would. I talked with Paul, and he decided that he could afford to do this. In some respects, this event for Schaap changed the course of his research career.  I tell the story about admantylidine adamantine in the book, Cal VanderWerf: Anchor of Hope.

Schaap went to Groningen and published a paper with Dick Kellogg; a year later, Jim Hardy went to Groningen. Finally, in fall 1968, Sue and I went while Kellogg served a year at Hope.  The year was eventful at several levels for us. Kellogg was one of nine members of Phi Beta Kappa at Hope on the faculty when that application was filed, so he signed the application. I could not have done so, because I was a Hope alumnus and not a member.