Central College will begin a $2.2 million renovation of its historic Douwstra Auditorium in December, transforming the local landmark into a regional performing arts center. Private donors have provided $2.2 million in lead gifts toward constructing the first-class space, including a $1.2 million lead gift from the Jim and Bea Hoekstra Estate.
James ’66 and Beatrice Minium Hoekstra ‘64, both musicians, met at Central while playing in the band’s trombone section. Jim’s parents, Rev. John ’41 and Adelaide Hoekstra, also attended Central. After completing degrees in physics and music, the couple moved to Ames, where Jim completed his Ph.D. and served 41 years at Iowa State University, retiring as senior systems analyst for the university’s high performance computing group. Bea became a vocal music teacher, director of children’s choirs and volunteer chaplain for Mary Greeley Medical Center.
Both continued to perform music with local choirs and church ensembles as singers and instrumentalists throughout their lives. Bea died in October 2006, and Jim followed in May 2016. Their legacy is continued by sons Steve ’92 and Tim ’95, also lifelong musicians and friends of Central. Tim is media services specialist at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames. Steve is professor of psychology at Kansas Wesleyan University and lives in Salina, Kansas, with his wife, Anne, and daughter, Thea.
Originally designed as a chapel, Douwstra Auditorium has been the heart of Central’s campus since 1939 — a gathering place for music, the arts, conferences and guest speakers. With hundreds of concerts, events, ceremonies and lectures, the building serves to commemorate college milestones, host world-renowned thinkers and attract audiences from across the U.S.
Central was home to fewer than 300 students when Douwstra Auditorium was built. Now the building is among Pella’s historic landmarks and requires improved space and technology to serve Central’s population of 1,500 students and staff and the greater Pella community. The college is determined to maintain the historic building but also meet the needs of a modern-day venue. Updates to the space include a visually striking interior, professional acoustic design and state-of-the-art sound, lighting and multimedia systems.
Construction begins right after Central hosts its annual Christmas Candlelight Concerts Dec. 7-9. This first phase of the renovation is expected to be complete by the end of spring semester.
Central College President Mark Putnam said with donor support the second project phase could address further needed updates, such as new air-handling and mechanical equipment, as well as a long-awaited musical feature — a custom-designed pipe organ. Douwstra Auditorium was outfitted with its original pipe organ right before World War II, and the college has sought an opportunity to restore its glory ever since the building’s last renovation in 1984.
Mark Babcock, M. Joan Kuyper Farver Endowed Chair in Music and associate professor of music, said the renovation will “make a statement in the present, but also about the future of the arts at Central. The space will represent our commitment to hosting performances and events of the highest quality with state-of-the-art acoustics, lighting and sound.”