CEDAR FALLS — A longtime advocate for education in the Cedar Valley and across Iowa has died.
Dick Vande Kieft served on the Cedar Falls Board of Education for 31 years. After stepping down in 2011, he continued serving on what is now the Central Rivers Area Education Agency Board of Directors. Vande Kieft resigned from that board in July for health reasons after 10 years of service.
He died Wednesday at age 78. Later that morning was the funeral of his wife, Judy, who died Nov. 4.
Karl Kurt, Central Rivers’ assistant chief administrator, said Vande Kieft was fiercely dedicated to education issues and “took his role on the board very seriously.” That passion carried over into interactions Kurt saw between Vande Kieft and his wife, who had been ill.
“He was just so caring and considerate and just talked to her in a way that was special,” said Kurt. “That probably encompasses who Dick was and why we’ll miss him so much.”
Joyce Coil, president of the Cedar Falls Community Schools’ board, called Vande Kieft “a wonderful educational leader.” She said he particularly championed early intervention for children who struggle with reading.
According to a Courier story on Vande Kieft’s retirement from the board, his 31 years of service was a record dating back to 1916. For nine of those years, he served as president or vice president. Coil said his tenure still stands as the longest.
“Dick modeled for all of us what that role as board member should look like,” she added. “I just felt like that set the tone for how you acted at a school board meeting.”
Kurt described him as “tough but fair” in his work with AEA administrators. “Obviously, he brought great experience and knowledge to the board. I think he prided himself on asking tough questions; he brought accountability.”
Debra Rich, president of the Central Rivers board, agreed. “I just think that really it was all about the kids, and he wanted the data to prove whatever it was we were doing was working.” He held the board’s Director District 7 seat, representing the Cedar Falls, Denver, and Janesville school districts.
At the state level, Vande Kieft served on the board of directors for the Iowa Association of School Boards from 1993 to 2011. He was the association board’s president-elect, president or treasurer for all but five of those years. He served on the IASB legislative resolutions committee as well as the Iowa Schools Cash Anticipation Program’s joint investment trust board.
At the national level, Vande Kieft represented Iowa at the National School Board Association delegate assembly and served on both the central region and national nominating committees for NSBA directors and president.
“I think his service to the various boards that he served on (was) a testament of his passion for the education of kids in Iowa,” said Rich. “It was a calling and duty that he felt to really be an advocate for kids.”
Vande Kieft’s funeral is at 10:30 a.m. today at Nazareth Lutheran Church. Visitation was Sunday at Dahl-Van Hove-Schoof Funeral Home, and will continue for one hour before services at the church.