The OACS director of communications will be missed: colleagues
Tony Kamphuis remembers seeing a plaque in John Vanasselt’s office at the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) that reads “it’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
“I thought that summed up a lot of what he did, he was very willing to share the credit or give the credit to others who were involved,” says Kamphuis.
Vanasselt, the OACS director of communications, is retiring today (June 27) after more than 30 years in Christian education.
Kamphuis, the Niagara Association for Christian Education (NACE) executive director, worked with Vanasselt on a political action committee in the late 1990s and says he admires how Vanasselt continued to seek justice for Christian schools even when it was hard to interest others.
“He pressed on and found some more volunteers and (he established) a lot of connections and relationships at Queen’s Park and the different ministries of the Ontario government that have really served the schools well,” says Kamphuis.
Adrian Guldemond, OACS executive director, says there are some outstanding political success stories and Vanasselt deserves a lot of credit for organizing and lobbying for the 2001 Equity in Education Tax Credit.
Guldemond says they have all learned a great deal from Vanasselt in terms of communicating the OACS message.
“He did a really superb job in putting the OACS on the map with respect to the major media and a number of journalists,” says Guldemond.
Vanasselt has also been responsible for human resource materials and employment contract issues in the 76 OACS member schools.
Diane Stronks, the executive director of the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association, first met Vanasselt when she was applying for a teaching job at Woodland Christian High School, where he was the principal from 1976 to 1992.
“He really taught me that Christian education couldn’t be second-rate; (it) needed to be excellent education and he was always a very ethical person, working with people in the most professional way,” she says. “One of his comments to me over the years … in terms of schools is teachers are the best resource that a school can have.”
In their current careers, Stronks says Vanasselt has been very helpful in answering any questions regarding contractual issues.
“He’s been very open, transparent and honest in his communication as to how the OACS will deal with things,” she says.
Ray Hendriks, principal of Rhema Christian School in Peterborough, says Vanasselt is brilliant in his human relations work.
“Justice is extremely important to John in terms of how we relate to each other, officially and unofficially. His knowledge of the contractual law is absolutely brilliant, his desire to have people treated fairly is absolutely superb,” says Hendriks.
Vanasselt also helped the association develop personnel contracts that are a reflection of the desire to operate schools within “the law of the land” and maintain the Christian faith integrity, notes Hendriks.
Gary Reitsma retired last year from the OACS in his position as financial director. He says he got to know Vanasselt during the 13 years they worked together through weekly lunches at local restaurants in Ancaster.
He says Vanasselt “packs a tight suitcase,” an expression once used to describe Johnny Carson meaning he is a very private person.
“He liked to get things done, he was a doer,” says Reitsma, who adds Vanasselt was always very focused on the task at hand.
Reitsma says he admires how Vanasselt is an intellectual and also very down to earth, and can “hold his own in different companies very easily.”
“He’s a heck of a guy and he’s a real contributor to OACS and they are going to miss him a lot,” says Reitsma.
“We do appreciate his leadership … we are sorry to see him go,” says Guldemond. “We are wishing him a healthy and happy retirement.”