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IU Northwest gallery reception honored Dr. James Tolhuizen, former co-founder and Chair of the Department of Communication

Joint reception and memorial service drew family, friends, faculty and students of Tolhuizen

Pianist Carole Miklos performs “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” during a Nov. 1 memorial service for the late Associate Professor of Communication Jim Tolhuizen. Also pictured (from left) are College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Hoyert, Tolhuizen’s son, Hank, and other members of Tolhuizen’s family.

Christopher Sheid, Indiana University Northwest – Office of Marketing & Communciations
Pianist Carole Miklos performs “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” during a Nov. 1 memorial service for the late Associate Professor of Communication Jim Tolhuizen. Also pictured (from left) are College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Hoyert, Tolhuizen’s son, Hank, and other members of Tolhuizen’s family.

The Indiana University Northwest community gathered in the Savannah Center on Monday, Nov. 1, to remember James Henry Tolhuizen II, Ph.D., the longtime communication professor and co-founder of the Department of Communication who passed away on Oct. 1. Friends and colleagues described “Dr. T” as a pillar of the university, and as someone who shared an exquisite sense of perspective about life and its challenges. 

“Jim was the voice of reason at IU Northwest. He always had this way of putting things into proper perspective,” said Professor of Sociology and Faculty Organization President Charles Gallmeier, Ph.D.

Tolhuizen was a former Faculty Organization president, and Gallmeier recalled that Dr. T had offered him some sage advice early in Gallmeier’s tenure when, back in 2008, the campus faced a series of challenges.

“I remember spending a lunch with Jim one afternoon, it was just him and me, and I started to rant and rave and freak out. I was really stressed,” Gallmeier recalled. “And Jim just said, ‘Hey, calm down. Relax.’

“Then he kind of sat back and gave out that laugh he was so famous for, and he said, ‘Chuck, you’ve got to remember, it’s not as if you’re president of the United States. None of the decisions you’re going to make are about war and peace, or whether to send people into harm’s way. You’re just the president of the faculty organization. Make the decisions you need to make. The faculty trusts you; otherwise, they wouldn’t have elected you. If the decisions don’t work out and you run for another term, they won’t re-elect you. The worst thing that can happen to you is you go back to the classroom and teach a couple more courses. And isn’t that what you like to do best, anyway?’”

“He was right,” Gallmeier said. “I’ll always be grateful for that advice, and for his mentorship, his friendship, and his collegiality.”

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Hoyert recalled that when his son suffered a broken leg and spent four days in the hospital in traction, Tolhuizen, a veteran of the Vietnam War, was able to offer comfort by recounting his own experience of convalescing after the serious leg injury he received from enemy fire.  

“Following his war wound, he spent months and months in traction, lying down, and he told the story about the first time that he got up,” Hoyert recalled. “He was in a military hospital, and he said four corpsmen appeared and were going to get him up. He marveled at these corpsmen. He said they were all huge corpsmen, they were all six-four and physically huge, and he wondered ‘Why four, and why so big?’

“And so the corpsmen picked him up and set him upright, and the next thing he knew, he had passed out. There were four of them because they knew he was going to topple but they didn’t know which direction, and they were so big because a falling body can require a lot of strength.

“I was comforted by his story,” Hoyert said. “But also, this is a story that is quite an appropriate metaphor for Jim and what Jim meant for the campus. Jim was one of our corpsmen, and he carried more than his fair share of the load.”

Tolhuizen served in Vietnam in 1969-70. After years of silence about his wartime experiences, Tolhuizen began speaking to Professor of History Jim Lane’s classes about his time in the military. He also recounted those experiences in an edition of Lane’s periodical “Steel Shavings.”

Singing was one of Tolhuizen’s great joys, and he was a longtime member of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus. On Monday, his fellow choral members sang in tribute to their late tenor.

Also, music instructor and pianist Carole Miklos performed “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in Tolhuizen’s memory. Professor of Communication Dorothy Ige, Ph.D., who co-founded the Department of Communication with Tolhuizen, said she’d chosen the song because Tolhuizen had been a bridge for IU Northwest, not knowing until later that it was also Dr. T’s favorite song. 

A number of Tolhuizen’s family members attended the service, including his son, Hank, who spoke on behalf of the family.

“I just want to thank everybody at the university,” said Hank, who noted that he’d spent a lot of time on campus with his father when he was younger. “It means a lot to us to know what a pillar my dad was for this community.”

Hank recalled that, in going through his father’s office recently, he had discovered a cocktail napkin that offered a fine example of Dr. T’s creative sense of perspective.

“On the cocktail napkin was drawn, in ballpoint pen, a little box, and inside the box it said, ‘Everything inside this box is a lie.’”

The Tolhuizen memorial took place as part of a reception hosted by the Savannah Gallery for Contemporary Art for its Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibit, which concluded Monday. The exhibit featured elaborate altars crafted by artists in honor of deceased loved ones, including Tolhuizen.

“The exhibit is wonderful. And the altar for my father is fantastic,” Hank said.

Dr. Tolhuizen had taught at IU Northwest for 25 years, following teaching stints at Old Dominion and the University of New Hampshire. He earned his undergraduate and master's degrees in Communication from Western Michigan University in 1969 and 1973, and he received his Ph.D. from the University of Denver in 1977. 

Dr. Tolhuizen's teaching specialties included Interpersonal Communication, Human Communication Theory, Public Speaking, Persuasion, and Research Methods. He wrote about and researched interpersonal dating relationships, a topic that was of great interest to his students.

On Monday, Tolhuizen’s students took the podium to recall their teacher’s impact on their lives. Laura Reynolds explained that Tolhuizen’s passion for his professional discipline was catching. 

“Many years ago, a man by the name of Dr. Jim Tolhuizen convinced me that taking a research methods class was going to be the most exciting class of my college career. He should have been a lawyer,” she said. “But that was the thing about Dr. Tolhuizen. His passion and his enthusiasm for the Department of Communication and all the areas of study in Communication were contagious. So was his passion for life.

“Dr. Tolhuizen lived under the notion that people must never give up on their dreams,” Reynolds added. “Those of us who really knew Dr. Tolhuizen knew the scars that were left behind by the Vietnam War. But what was so inspiring was how those scars never got in the way of his great achievements and his zest for life.”

Senior communication major Walt Robinson, who played for the RedHawk basketball team last year, recalled the support that Tolhuizen had shown him as an out-of-area student on a campus far from home.

“When Dr. Tolhuizen found out that I was on the basketball team, he went to almost every home game,” Robinson said. “That felt quite good to me. I think that says a little bit about how much he loved the university and how much he cared about his students.”

Professor of Political Science Jean Poulard, Ph.D., recalled Tolhuizen as a fellow who could always be counted on to provide a laugh or a light moment when one was needed. Poulard and Tolhuizen were part of a group of faculty members who lunched together in the cafeteria every Tuesday and Thursday for many years.

“I loved the way he always kidded me, sometimes on my accent, sometimes on my using the wrong words, but he always had a good quip, either to elate me when I was sad, or to put me down,” Poulard said. “But I always loved it.”

Everyone at Monday’s memorial service agreed that Tolhuizen’s good works at IU Northwest would sustain his memory for his students and colleagues throughout the life of the university.   

“His name will not be forgotten at Indiana University Northwest,” Ige said.


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Related Links

IU Northwest mourns the loss of Associate Professor of Communication Jim Tolhuizen

IU Northwest gallery exhibit features altars in recognition of the Mexican tradition of Dia de Los Muertos

Additional Article Photos

Christopher Sheid, Indiana University Northwest – Office of Marketing & Communciations
IU Northwest senior Walt Robinson speaks about Prof. Jim Tolhuizen during a Nov. 1 memorial service in the Savannah Center. Tolhuizen passed away Oct. 1.