Marty Stulp (’53, 8th grade class of ’49) has spent his life serving others — from teaching, to visiting classmates in the hospital, to attending sporting events at Timothy — he has faithfully served and honored the Lord.
Marty Stulp has a way with people. He always has.
Marty Stulp represents the very best of Timothy Christian Schools.
The son of hard working, conservative Dutch immigrants, Marty was enrolled in first grade at Timothy when he was only 5 years old. Although academics were always a challenge, he had a natural inclination towards relationships and athletics. But, in God’s good providence, those academic weaknesses would eventually prove to serve him well later in life when he became a teacher.
Marty, who is now 83, admits that while he didn’t love school, he did like the songs he sang at Timothy in grade school. Singing songs meant less time on classwork. “Academic success,” Marty jokingly added, “probably wasn’t the top factor contributing to me being Distinguished Alumni.”
While school never got easier for him, he was a natural athlete. To this day, Marty still holds his high school’s record for most points scored in a game - 57! His natural athleticism and intuition eventually earned him a spot playing on Calvin College’s basketball team.
Marty, still struggling with academics, was forced to drop out of Calvin after a year, which automatically placed him into the military draft. The cease fire in the Korean War had already occurred, but in 1953 men who were not in college were still drafted to help manage the aftermath. After basic training, Marty was shipped out of Seattle, Washington, on his way to Korea. He decided to take a nap, while waiting for orders.
“I went into a building and slept,” Marty recalls. “After a while someone came over and woke me up, yelling that I was AWOL [absent without leave]! Because I was late, I ended up being one of the last people assigned. By God’s grace I ended up in Tokyo where I lived in a hotel, got three hot meals a day, and played basketball.”
Sensitive to the perils faced by some of his peers, but grateful for God’s grace, Marty remembers his time in the army with humble fondness. He was a member of the U.S. Army military police, stationed in US-occupied Tokyo, Japan. While not particularly traumatic, the distance from home still took its toll on Marty, who said the songs he learned as a boy at Timothy helped him through.
After twenty-four months of service, Marty returned home and used his education benefits from the army to pay for college. He started at Morton College, but eventually transferred back to Calvin. In the midst of these transitions, Marty’s mother tragically died in a car accident.
Marty knew by the time his mother died that he wanted to be a teacher, but his grades at Calvin did not qualify him for the student teaching necessary to graduate. In 1958, Marty left to attend Northern Illinois University, which allowed him to be closer to his widowed father and younger siblings, Fred (’61) and Joy Stulp (’59).
“Marty’s attitude in coming home was not to rescue us. He just felt like there should be someone available. That’s Marty, he’s always been there my whole life,” says Fred.
At Northern Illinois University, Marty met and eventually married the woman he still calls “his bride,” Joan Kocanda, and graduated with a major in history and a minor in physical education. Several years later he earned a Master’s Degree in education administration and supervision from Roosevelt University.
Marty went on to serve in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs for 31 years as a school administrator, teacher,and coach. Whether in the Chicago Public Schools, where Marty spent the first seven years of his career, or the suburbs, where he spent the remaining 24, Marty was known by everyone for his ability to engage students who were considered to be “problems.” He was also known for his faithfulness, and dedication to students and the profession.
Many parents who had children in Marty’s classes would come to him at the end of the year asking for his secret. Their children would enter the year hating school and by the time they left, he got them to not only love school, but love learning. Marty’s methods were often considered “unconventional,” but, according to those closest to him, undeniably successful.
“At the beginning of each year, I would go through the records and look for the kids failing. I would pull them aside at the beginning of the year and tell them that they were going to get an “A” in my class. I told them that their grade would be 1/3 showing up, 1/3 writing and I would help, and 1/3 testing. However, they could keep taking the test until they got the grade they wanted,” Marty elaborates.
Parents not only came out of the school year amazed at their child’s success, but more importantly, that their child loved school. The praise that parents gave their children, who were no longer labeled “problems,” often became the pathway for their continued success.
By 1982, Joan was working at Timothy as a home economics teacher and Marty was serving on Timothy’s School Board. During Marty’s tenure, which included three full terms, Peter Huizenga (’56, 2017 Distinguished Alumni) was named President and insisted that Marty be Vice President, automatically making him President of the Education Committee. Peter knew that Marty’s expertise was needed and he became particularly instrumental in helping Timothy navigate through times of transition. His deep understanding and respect for Timothy’s history, coupled with extensive experience in education, including many years as an administrator, made him the perfect person for the job.
“Marty Stulp represents the very best of Timothy Christian Schools,” says Matt Davidson, who is the Superintendent of Timothy Christian Schools. “He is loyal, generous, kind, and humble. He is a man of conviction and has faithfully served and honored the Lord. He respects the traditions of our past, while also enthusiastically embracing the changes that are necessary for our future. Marty is one of my favorite people in the world — he inspires me.”
Marty eventually retired in 1993 and has spent the past 26 years committing himself to students in new ways. If you’ve ever been to a Timothy basketball game, chances are you’ve seen “Timothy’s number one basketball fan,” as Timothy Director of Advancement, Robert Venhousen, calls him, smiling and cheering in the stands.
For at least twenty years, Marty attended and filmed hundreds of basketball games and girls volleyball games and distributed thousands of tapes to students and their families.
“Sometimes I’d show up at church on Sunday and find a film of my daughter’s game that week already in my mailbox. It was such a blessing,” recalls Sue (Jelinek) Hoff (’72) who attended church with Marty.
“My father spent countless hours purchasing, filming, reviewing, copying and labeling tapes – with his own equipment - so that each player could enjoy viewing them with their families,” Marty’s daughter, Cindy (Stulp-Jarzembowski, ’84), recalls. “My father’s dedication and support of these players sometimes meant he was also a significant mentor in their lives.”
Another place you’re likely to see Marty is at the VA Hospital volunteering or visiting his lifelong friend and fellow Timothy alumni, Jeff Boerman (8th grade class of ’51). Jeff was paralyzed after the Korean war and over the decades, Marty continued to visit him. Jeff is just one of the many classmates that Marty stays in touch with today and he continues to hand-write a bi-annual letter that he photocopies and personally distributes to each surviving member of his Timothy class.
“There isn’t just one thing that you can point to with Marty that shows why he should be Timothy’s Distinguished Alumni,” Jay Evenhouse says, who is not only Marty’s friend, but also the Director of Alumni. “It’s the culmination of an entire life lived for others, of daily faithfulness in the little things, and a big heart for Timothy.”
Whether on the basketball court or classroom, volunteering his time as Director of the La Grange Highlands Civic Association, spending time with his daughters, three grandchildren or great grandson, or laughing with his friends and family, Marty is a man whose life lifts others up.
“The older I get the more I appreciate having him around, not only as a brother, but also as a friend,” Fred expresses, summing up a shared sentiment amongst Marty’s siblings. “Marty is more than a brother; he is a valuable friend to have.”
Today, while no longer behind the camera, you can still find Marty cheering on students in the front row of basketball games. And, if you wake up early enough, you might even see him rolling through campus on his way to McDonald’s for coffee. He takes the long route, just to make sure that everything is looking alright at the school he so dearly loves.