Western Theological Seminary is saddened to learn of the passing of former president, Rev. Marvin Hoff. May he Rest In Peace and rise in glory. Please see the full obituary from Marvin’s son David below:
Marvin Hoff, who dedicated his life to ministry in the Reformed Church of America and the church universal, died on May 26.
Rev. Hoff served as the president of Western Theological Seminary from 1985 to 1994 and was the pastor of churches in Hawthorne, N.J. and Palos Heights, Ill. He also held executive positions for the Reformed Church of America supporting overseas missionaries and the denomination’s General Synod from 1969 to 1981.
In addition to his service to the RCA, he supported the development of the churches and seminaries in China and throughout Southeast Asia in his service to the Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia (FTESEA), starting as a trustee in 1969, then as a part-time executive director from 1977 through 1994. From 1994 until his retirement in 2006, he was the foundation’s full-time executive director.
Starting in the early 1980s, his work for the FTESEA focused on supporting seminaries in China as they re-opened after the country’s Cultural Revolution. Because the government had destroyed books decades earlier, the FTESEA’s initial support was to provide books for their libraries. Working in partnership with his wife, Joan, they purchased and shipped books to schools and published and distributed journals that advanced theological support throughout the region.
Rev. Hoff travelled to China annually to visit seminaries, attend celebrations, and participate in conferences until his retirement in 2006.
“He is a true teacher and a great friend of Asia,” Sientje Merentek-Abram, then the executive director of the Assembly of the Association for Theological Education in South East Asia, wrote in a collection of essays celebrating Rev. Hoff’s career. “He always put himself at the background in helping the schools.”
Rev. Hoff considered his tenure at Western Seminary as a great honor to carry on the legacy of the professors who prepared him for ministry. He earned a B.A. at Central College in Pella, Iowa, an M.Div. at Western, a Th.M. at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Doctorandus from the Theological University in Kampen, the Netherlands.
He also served as the stated clerk for the Holland Classis.
In retirement, he also enjoyed cheering on his favorite sports teams, whether it was the Bears, Bulls, and Cubs in Chicago or the Hope College football, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball teams.
He and Joan also dedicated their time and energy with their grandchildren, attending countless concerts, sports games, theater productions, scouting events, and taking them to playgrounds, water parks, and sporting events. His grandchildren all share his enthusiasm for a good meal, especially the ice cream for dessert, and enjoyed his colorful commentary while watching sports on television.
Rev. Hoff is survived by his beloved wife, Joan; his daughters, Jean Hoff of Chevy Chase, Md. and Mary Hoff-Robinson and his son-in-law Hugh Robinson of Westmont, Ill.; his son, David Hoff and his daughter-in-law Sally Davis of Arlington, Va.; and six grandchildren, Gretchen “Rozie” Hoff, Carolyn Hoff, Jonah Davis-Hoff, Ian Davis-Hoff, Nate Robinson, and Bella Robinson; his brothers, Roger and Ron Hoff, and their wives, Diane and Sue; and five nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Arend and Mildred Hoff, and his beloved grandson, Isaac Wilkens Hoff.
The family is planning a memorial service on June 7 at 11 a.m. at the St. John Lutheran Church in Joliet, Ill., where Rev. Hoff lived until recently.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Reformed Church in America to support a new mission to support dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Ethiopia. Donations can be made at https://www.rca.org/give/ethiopia-john-hubers; please check the “in memory of” box. Checks can be sent to: Terri Boven, Finance Dept., Reformed Church in America, 4500 60th St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512. Please include “Marvin Hoff/John Hubers” in the subject line.