Van Peursem Hall. It’s a far trek for Stegenga, North Suites and apartment residents. Trips to the third floor often leave business students breathless. It’s oddly shaped and, until recently, was busting at the seams trying to accommodate every department. But have you ever noticed how clean it is?
Each day, Diane Westenberg of the maintenance department wakes up and gets to VPH before anyone else. She cleans throughout the entire building and makes sure everything is in order before students and professors start filling the beloved brick building for the day. She’s been doing it since 1990.
Many of the students going to class in VPH have parents who also benefitted from Westenberg’s dedication to the maintenance of the building. In fact, after twenty-nine years in the position, Ron Juffer is the only person working in the building who was there when Westenberg started.
Westenberg has had the privilege of getting to know many different people in her tenure here as professors, students, staff and other maintenance team members continue to come and go.
“Many of these relationships have given me life-long friends and some have become like family,” Westenberg said.
If you think you know the ins-and-outs after navigating through the hallways for a couple semesters, after maintaining the building for so long, Westenberg is a VPH-whisperer.
“I feel like I know the sounds, smells and quirks of this place pretty well, and could write a book on all of the things that have happened in and to this building for the last almost 30 years,” she said.
Despite great focus on the interior cleanliness of the building, exterior forces often thwart her efforts. In the winter months, floors that were once clean and shiny thanks to Westenberg’s work quickly become marked with slush and dirt from shoes.
“I am always happy when spring rolls around,” Westenberg said. “Although spring means May, and May brings graduation, which means students I have come to know will be moving on. That always feels like you lose a little piece of your heart and what makes this place great. Fortunately, each year also brings new students and new acquaintances.”
In addition to daily encounters in VPH, Westenberg has been able to get to know students who have been her work studies. Her husband Wayne is a math professor at NW and assistant volleyball coach, so Westenberg has also gotten to know several volleyball players over the years.
Attending volleyball games is a perfect chance for Westenberg to cheer on her beloved Raiders, a hobby that runs deep in her family. Her and Wayne’s four children are NW alums and met their spouses here. Their twelve grandchildren visit often to cheer on NW, and all eight of their granddaughters have attended volleyball camps. Maybe someday they will be Raiders themselves.
“We truly do bleed red in our family,” Westenberg said.
If Westenberg could give one piece of advice to students, she would say, “Be the best you can be with what you have been given, and make the most of every opportunity… Oh, and go Red!”