Central College News

Top Stories of 2023 from Central College

Featured: Top Stories of 2023 from Central College

December 20, 2023

The year’s end provides an uplifting time to reflect upon Central College’s celebrations and the world of good we’re doing together. Reminisce through the top 10 news stories and activities of the year. Read the full story about these moments and more on the Central news page at news.central.edu.

1 Academic Advancements

Maggie Schlerman Professor Maggie Schlerman (standing) works with accounting and business management students.

The faculty implemented changes that bolstered majors and programs for prospective students. The updates in majors and programs include a Bachelor of Science in accounting and two new minors in data science and social justice studies. Central launched a new core curriculum that enhances flexibility to meet changing needs for degrees and careers of the future.


2 Forever Dutch Lager®

Forever Dutch Lager

Central became the first private college in the Midwest to release its own beer, allowing for competition not just on the field but at the tap. Gezellig Brewing Company and Pella Hops came together to help Central brew Forever Dutch Lager® with 15% of sales supporting the Journey Scholarship Fund.


3 Faculty-led International Travel

four photos of Central faculty taken in the country of their visit. Central faculty traveled to Iceland (top left), Trinidad (top right), Greece (bottom left) and Chile (bottom right).

Four interdisciplinary teams of Central faculty completed international travel, funded by a grant from the Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students Program. These exploratory trips supported the development of sustainable structures for faculty-led international educational programs. The first course will begin over the winter break in December 2023.


4 Strength and Conditioning Accredited

Kinesiology majors working together in the Central weight room.

Central’s kinesiology and strength and conditioning programs earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Central is a leader in this space with faculty and staff showing strong dedication to their students and the program by teaching, demonstrating and facilitating important skills and concepts of the major.


5 Women’s Wrestling Program Launched

Jenna Hernandez and Coach Baynes Jenna Hernandez ’24 and Coach Baynes at season opener.

Central’s Women’s Wrestling Coach Paige Baynes took the reins of the startup program, building a roster from the ground up. Competition in Div. III is growing, and Central women have earned individual wrestling wins.


6 Lifelong Educator Turns 100

Wilma Damhof Hoekstra '45 '69

Wilma Damhof Hoekstra ’45 and ’69 gained attention in the fall as Central’s oldest-known alumna turned 100 in October. Hoekstra earned a two-year teaching certificate and then returned to earn a BA in education. She also published a book at age 99 about butterflies and caring for pollinators. Hoekstra has fostered the Central legacy with more than 25 family members graduating from Central. She taught first grade in Pella for 20 years and influenced the education of hundreds of students.


7 Central Installs Lori Witt as Endowed Chair

Lori Witt and Mark Putnam holding plaque Lori Witt, professor of history, received plaque from Mark Putnam, Central president.

President Mark Putnam installed Lori Witt, professor of history, as the 11th Kenneth J. Weller Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts.Lori Witt, associate professor of history, was installed as the Kenneth J. Weller Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts. This three-year endowed professorship recognizes a distinguished faculty member and provides support for teaching. Witt has taught at Central since 1998. Her areas of interest include U.S. social and cultural history, women’s history, sports history, religious history and popular culture.


8 Record-breaking Funds Received

Three students holding sign that reads First Day of School Central’s 48-Hour Challenge was held on the first day of classes.

The Central advancement team facilitates donor support of the college, current students and the next generation of students. With a successful Hoo-Rah Day, 48-hour Challenge and Giving Tuesday, the college engaged with a record number of alumni and friends committed to students and the future of the 170-year-old institution. The generosity of longtime foundations Geisler Penquite and Noel Cover continues to support valued scholarships for students.


9 Central Awarded $900,000 in Grants

Jay Wackerly holding a model of the cambiarene molecule.Jay Wackerly, associate professor of chemistry, holding a molecular model representing his research.

Central and its students will benefit from new research and programming opportunities with the awards of major grants. The National Science Foundation will spend $20 million in Iowa on a grant “Building Capacity Across Iowa to Meet Human Needs from Things That Grow,” with more than $360,000 to be invested at Central for research.

The college is a recipient of funding awarded to the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities to ensure the seamless transfer of academic credits and place a greater emphasis on the retention rate for transfer students from community colleges to four-year institutions. Grants were also awarded for Upward Bound programs.

Research at Central opened doors for more students in 2023, who were granted highly competitive Research Experiences for Undergraduates through the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.


10 National Dance Champions

Central dance team on beach holding championship banner and trophy Central’s dance team earned the 2023 NDA championship in Pom.

The Central dance team made program history and brought the school into the national spotlight. The program won first place in Division III Pom at the National Dance Alliance College Nationals held in Daytona Beach, Florida, in April. The team also placed fourth overall in Division III Jazz. The Central dance team also won two American Rivers Conference titles in February in jazz and hip hop, as well as the overall championship.


11 Best of Division III Football

Blaine Hawkins '22 wins NCAA top award

In January 2023, Blaine Hawkins ’21 was named a recipient of the 2023 Today’s Top 10 Award, one of the NCAA’s loftiest honors. Hawkins is only the third student-athlete from an Iowa college or university to ever receive the award and the second in Central history.