Calvin College Mourns the Loss of Coach Dave Tuuk

Calvin College Mourns the Loss of Coach Dave Tuuk

Calvin College has lost one of its legendary Knights.

Calvin professor of physical education emeritus David B. Tuuk passed away on Wednesday at the age of 92.

Tuuk faithfully served his alma mater for 36 years as a faculty member, coach and men's director of athletics.


A native of Grand Rapids, Tuuk attended Calvin College during the 1943-44 academic year.

He later suspended his studies to serve his country during World War II as a radio operator in the Army Air Corp, spending 15 months overseas in the East India Air Depot (India-Burma Air Service Command) CBI Theatre of Operations.

After World War II, he returned to Calvin graduating in 1949. As a student, he was a four-year member of the men's basketball team and was a member of the men's golf team.

In 1952, Tuuk was appointed instructor in the Calvin Physical Education Department. During his first year as an instructor he served as head coach of the women's basketball team, baseball team and men's track and field team while also teaching physical education coursework.

He later served as an assistant coach with the men's basketball team but proceeded to make an indelible mark as the school's head men's cross country and head men's track and field coach.


In 1953, he teamed up with then Calvin Director of Athletics Barney Steen to form the school's first men's cross country team. In 1958 he led Calvin to its first MIAA cross country title and later led the program to a record 39 consecutive MIAA dual meet victories.

In 1960, he led the Calvin men's track and field team to its first MIAA title, winning the conference meet at Kalamazoo College by a scant two points.

From 1958 to 1984, Tuuk led the Calvin men's cross country team to 13 MIAA titles and the Calvin men's track and field team to 11 MIAA crowns. With 24 MIAA titles to his credit, Tuuk remains ranked seventh on the all-time MIAA list for most league titles as a head coach.

From 1980-to-1983, he also served as the first head coach of the Calvin women's cross country program.

Former Calvin Alumni Relations Director Mike Van Denend was a member of Tuuk's cross country and track and field teams in the 1970's. "Dave Tuuk was my Calvin cross country and track coach and I remember his dedication to the college, to Calvin athletics and to every team," said Van Denend. "He was a soft-spoken, but intensely earnest person. His deep convictions--about faith, Christian education and the benefit of team sports--were underscored by his words and actions every day."

Van Denend remembers spring break training trips with the men's track and field team organized by Tuuk.

"My fondest memories are of the spring break trips he cobbled together for the track team. There was next-to-no funding in those days, so coach led us in a caravan of vans, cars and station wagons to Tennessee and South Carolina, where we camped out at night. We competed, bonded as teammates and sang gospel songs in the French Broad Baptist Church of east Tennessee. Those were character-building experiences with a deeply positive impact."


During the 1970's, Tuuk added the duties of men's director of athletics.

During his tenure, he worked diligently to upgrade the athletics facilities at Calvin with the school adding new baseball and softball fields, a new natatorium and later a new track surface.

Tuuk also helped bring NCAA championship events to the Calvin campus. Through his work, Calvin served as host of the 1977 and 1978 NCAA III Track and Field Championships. The 1977 national meet featured the entry of Edwin Moses in the 400 meter hurdles, the gold medal winner in the 1976 Olympics.

In 1982, Tuuk helped Calvin secure the NCAA III Men's Basketball Championships at the Calvin Fieldhouse. What eventually developed was a series of seven consecutive championships hosted by Calvin. Teams were lodged at the nearby Harley Hotel with the pre-championship banquet taking place annually at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids. ESPN television covered the early years of the championship run, providing the college with national exposure.

Former Calvin Sports Information Director Phil de Haan was hired by a committee led by Tuuk in 1985 and had a first-hand look at the men's basketball championships.

"Coach Tuuk was a consummate leader when it came time to host big events," said de Haan. "This was in the days before the West Michigan Sports Commission.  He worked with businesses, the city of Grand Rapids and the campus community to make it all happen. He could be a real wheeler-dealer and he knew how to negotiate."

Tuuk also knew how to bring the best out of those working alongside him. "He was an individual that stood for excellence," said de Haan. "His feeling was that at Calvin, the goal was to strive for excellence and everyone around him fed off that. He also knew when to give you space to do your job. He could come off at first as a little gruff. He was a bit of an old school AD in that regard but if you needed something and made a good case for it, nine times out of 10 he would have it for you within 24 hours."

Tuuk retired from Calvin in 1988 but remained busy serving as the Director of the Christian Reformed Recreation Center – a position he began in the 1950's and held for 47 years.


He also found time to partner with the Calvin Alumni Association to author a pair of anthologies chronicling the history of Calvin College athletics. His first book entitled: Maroon and Gold Will Bind Our Hearts, was published in 1998. The book covered the history of Calvin athletics from 1915-1953. His second book entitled: Golden Years, Calvin's First Half-Century in the MIAA, covered Calvin's entry into the MIAA in 1953 and continued through 2003.

"Coach (Tuuk) also wanted to be certain the people and stories of Calvin athletic history would not be lost, so he pitched the idea of publishing a two-volume set of books about the Knights to the Calvin Alumni Association," said Van Denend. "The first book covered the pre-MIAA years and the second Calvin's first 50 years of MIAA participation. He put many, many hours into the research for these volumes and lovingly tended to each page with his good friend, Dr. Wally Bratt. The books continue to stand as important references of Calvin College history."

In the books, Tuuk provided playful snippets of humor. In one story, Tuuk recalled a time where he was whistled for a technical foul while serving as an assistant men's basketball coach. "I said something like 'Open your eyes, Ref!'" wrote Tuuk. "In response, the referee turned around and pointed at the bench, calling a technical foul. I turned around to make it look as though the words had come from the second row. And who was sitting immediately behind the bench but the gentlemanly music professor Seymour Swets!"

In another story, Tuuk recalled a home track meet in 1962 when one of his top high jumpers committed a faux pas. "Typically the high jumper would keep jumping in his sweat suit until the opposition was eliminated," wrote Tuuk. "At this meet he made a jump at 6' when a pack of cigarettes fell out of his sweat top. Eventually, this little mishap got back to the coach (Tuuk) who levied no penalty but said, 'Without the cigs you could go up to 6'6.' Case Closed."

Doris Zuidema served alongside Tuuk as Calvin's Director of Women's Athletics during the 1970's and 1980's and stated that her former colleague will be missed. "Dave was a very special person, a great colleague," said Zuidema. "He was very dedicated to Calvin and highly supportive of the women's (athletics) program. He will be greatly missed."

Current Calvin Director of Athletics Dr. Jim Timmer Jr. was a student-athlete near the end of Tuuk's tenure at Calvin and gleaned wisdom and knowledge from his predecessor. "Coach Tuuk set the standard for future athletic directors at Calvin," said Timmer. "I learned many things from while watching his work as an atheltic director and later having one-on-one conversations with him as I moved into my own career as an educator, administrator and coach. He was dedicated, tireless, invested and savvy. Most of all he loved Calvin College and everything that the institution stood for. We at Calvin are extremely grateful for his leadership in paving the way for future generations of Calvin Knights."

Tuuk is survived by his six children, 17 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held Friday, July 20, 11 AM, at Calvin Christian Reformed Church (700 Ethel SE, Grand Rapids MI 49506). Friends and relatives may greet the family Thursday, July 19, 5-8 PM at Zaagman Memorial Chapel (2800 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI, 49546) as well as one hour prior to the service on Friday from 10-11 AM at the church.