One of the brightest and most encouraging presences on Northwestern’s campus is Wendell Kempman, the custodial assistant of the Rowenhourst Student Center as well as the dorms during summer break.
Kempman, a former resident of Heemstra Hall, graduated NW in 1977 as a Math Education Major. He returned to his alma mater four years ago after teaching mathematics for 33 years near Des Moines, IA.
“I looked at job-seekers on NW’s website quite frequently,” Kempman said. “I always had NW at the back of my mind if I ever decided to stop teaching; it is a great place to come back to. The opportunity opened up, they decided I was fit for the job and well, here I am.”
Although some students dread the end of August, it is Kempman’s favorite time of the year. He looks forward to seeing both new and familiar faces on campus. Kempman said interacting with students is his favorite part of his job.
“I get to see a lot of students that other housekeepers don’t get to,” he said.
He enjoys his office location in the RSC because of the constant traffic of students passing through the building. Students often pass by Kempman’s office and hear Christian music playing in the background.
When Kempman is not working, he enjoys watching his eight grandkids play various sports. In addition to teaching, he also coached softball for his daughter, Anita, during her high school years. Anita is currently NW’s assistant softball coach.
Although he may favor softball, he likes watching other sports too. Kempman is a great supporter of NW athletics.
It is not uncommon to see Kempman with a smile on his face and a friendly greeting directed to whomever he encounters in the RSC.
Erin Van Horn described Kempman as caring, intentional, real and joyful.
“Even though he doesn’t have the most glamorous job on campus, he still serves as though it is the most important,” Van Horn said. “Through his devotion to his job, he shows his devotion for NW and the students here. He’s pretty much who I want to be when I grow up.”
Kempman understands and exemplifies that the most important things in life do not always have to be big moments. Sometimes the biggest impact can be a result from the smallest gestures.
“I believe that joy is important and I am not always, but I believe it is important to love each other, and that comes through simple facial countenance,” Kempman said. “It is so easy here: the students, the staff and the community members make it easy. I just love that part of the job is the people that I encounter.”
Not only does Kempman give his time, effort and inspiration, he also appreciates being relational and hearing about the transformational work that students are doing in the world.
He often attends chapel and hears about how students are involved in ministry.
“It just brings a smile to my face when I hear what they get to do and see Christ’s work in the world and within them,” Kempman said.
Kempman has truly made a positive impact on NW campus the last four years and will continue to do so. He is the definition of joy and encouragement, and he has been the perfect fit for NW.