I have often said that Peter Huizenga is Timothy’s dearest friend. His passion for our school is observable in so many ways, and it is truly authentic. He deeply respects our history and traditions, yet is constantly pressing forward as a change agent for the betterment of Timothy Christian Schools. He is a man of strong conviction and Biblical wisdom, and his enthusiasm for life is contagious. Peter is a leader and a winner. He is a man after God’s own heart. — Matt Davidson, Timothy Christian Schools Superintendent
When Peter Huizenga was just a boy, he’d wake up before daybreak on Saturday morning and wait for his dad to flip on the lights. “I’d beg him to ride along on one of his garbage trucks,” Peter remembers. “Back then you’d have to fit everything into the truck, like a puzzle. It was before the trucks had hydraulics, so sometimes you’d have to go back in the bed of the truck and stomp it all down.”
Riding in a truck and breakfast with “the men” was a rare treat on those days. The garbage business was a family affair that started in 1893 when Peter’s grandfather immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands. Grandpa Harm was only twenty five years old, didn’t speak the language, but was willing to work hard in his newly adopted homeland. With a team of horses pulling a wagon, he picked up garbage and trash from businesses on the west side of Chicago. “It was tough work,” Peter says. “But he didn’t have to work on Sundays. He was his own boss and was able to support his family.”
By 1968, Peter along with his cousin Wayne and brother-in-law Dean Buntrock, founded Waste Management. It grew into a garbage empire, eventually employing 75,000 people worldwide. Peter was an officer and director from 1968 to 1997. In 1998 the business was merged and today Waste Management no longer operates its trucks with burgundy and white colors. They are now green and gold as they rumble down the streets of Chicagoland. “My father realized the value of the waste business and started several small businesses of his own, including Ace Scavenger Service, which was the mother company of Waste Management. The waste collection business not only allowed my father to send all five of his children to Timothy, but to continue to give to Timothy,” Peter says. “It’s because of Waste Management that I can continue supporting Timothy.”
Christian education, and especially Timothy Christian Schools, has always been a cornerstone of the Huizenga family. Peter’s father attended Ebenezer Christian School in Chicago, which eventually merged with Timothy. Peter first enrolled in Timothy Christian School as a kindergartner when the campus was in Cicero.
Not only was attending a Christian school important to the Huizenga family, but so was supporting the school beyond the annual tuition payments. Peter remembers his father raising funds for Timothy. “My father would ask for contributions for the annual fund,” Peter says. “He believed supporting our Christian school was your duty to God and to the community.”
It was this sense of duty that was ingrained in Peter as a young boy. As he made his way through Timothy, he not only watched his dad make charitable donations to Timothy, but his extended family also became aware of their financial responsibility to the school.
In 1978 Peter’s Aunt Tena, who had served as a missionary in Africa, passed away. She had managed to acquire an estate of reasonable size, of which 27 thousand dollars was bequeathed to Timothy. “At that time I didn’t want that money to go into the general fund,” Peter says. “I suggested forming a foundation so we could build a fund that would assist students with tuition. That’s how the Timothy Foundation started.”
The Timothy Foundation helps ease the burden of tuition for parents who need financial aid. Peter, now at the age of 78, is still the Chair of the Board of the Foundation. The 27 thousand dollars was a seed that has grown into over 4.5 million. “I want to make sure that people can afford to send their kids to Timothy,” Peter says.
Peter, who earned his law degree from University of Illinois and is now the Chairman of Huizenga Capital Management, sent all four of his children to Timothy and has four grandchildren there. As generations of Huizenga’s attend Timothy, one thing has always remained the same—Peter’s involvement. Over the years Peter has served two terms as president of the board and he’s currently the co-chairman of Project Impact.
Now from his office on York Road, only a mile south of Timothy, he actively supports Timothy’s needs, including the current building projects. He has weekly conversations with Matt Davidson, the superintendent. Together they plan and strategize things like property acquisition, site planning, zoning, drainage, academic improvements, and raising the necessary funds. “I’m all in at Timothy,” Peter says. “Every aspect of it.”
For Peter though, supporting his alma mater is more than just pride in the school. It’s deeper. For him, it’s a spiritual calling. “If you have skills and gifts you owe it to God—not the school—but to God,” Peter says. “If God blesses you, and you have the ability, that’s when things start to get really interesting.”
Over his lifetime, Timothy has moved and expanded. Not only has Peter prayerfully and financially supported the school as it’s grown into the current campus. The Huizenga Auditorium is named in honor of his late mother and aunts—Betty Huizenga, Jennie Huizenga, Tena Huizenga and Bertha Huizenga who were substantial contributors to Timothy. He was key to raising the funds for Project Impact, which is the new middle school and field house set to open in the fall. But the buildings and campus—as beautiful and high-tech as they may be—serve an even greater purpose in Peter’s mind.
Those buildings are simply vehicles to continue the 100 plus year-old tradition of educating Christian disciples to be transformers of the world. “The Timothy experience is a great education competitive with public schools in the area,” Peter says. “But we’ve got something that public schools don’t have – teaching of values and virtues within a Biblical worldview. Timothy educates the mind, enriches the soul and provides physical training to the body. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The Alumnus of the Year award is given to an alumni of Timothy Christian Schools who embodies the mission of the school through a positive impact on Timothy and/or culture and society. The recipient is chosen by the Alumni Association Board from a list of nominees submitted by Alumni Association members. If you would like to submit a name for consideration for the Alumnus of the Year award, please register their name and accomplishments with the board by filling out the application form at this link.