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The DeWitt Family


Honoring loved ones through the education of others

The DeWitt Family

The Jack and Marlies DeWitt Scholarship Fund

“Jack loved three things: Zeeland, Hope College, and education. He was an eternal optimist and a life long learner. He was always reading, always sharing quotes and words of wisdom,” noted his wife Marlies.

Jack DeWitt felt that there were two kinds of people in this world: those who live in Zeeland, and those who wish they lived in Zeeland.

“We have community pride. We’re a real Zeeland family,” said daughter Sabina Otteman. The DeWitt family’s affinity for the Zeeland Chix is fitting, as Jack was very successful in the poultry and hatchery business.

Jack founded the Big Dutchman company in Zeeland with his brother Dick over 75 years ago. Their automatic feeders revolutionized the poultry industry and Big Dutchman quickly expanded internationally. Even though Jack and Marlies enjoyed traveling the world together, Zeeland was the place they chose to call home.

In 2012, Jack passed away at age 100. After his passing, his granddaughter Monika questioned, “Why don’t we have a scholarship for Grandpa?”

“We talked about it and thought, ‘Why don’t we?’ Learning was always so important to Jack — what a great way to honor him forever,” said Marlies.

The scholarship in Jack’s honor is a tribute to all three of his passions and is awarded to the graduating senior with the highest grade point average from Zeeland East who will attend Hope College.

The John C. DeWitt Scholarship Fund

Jack’s love of Zeeland and the Chix extends to his son, John, who is known as the world’s greatest Chix fan.

John helps in the lunchroom and with the football team, and attends as many Chix games as possible. John’s school spirit was so impressive that Tim Ritsema, Zeeland East’s athletic director, established the Johnny D. Spirit Award, which is given annually to a male and female Zeeland East student.

“John has a passion for firing up the students. He really builds them up, and that’s what the award is all about,” noted Marlies. Jack was known for that same ability to motivate and fire up his team at every opportunity, and it’s evident he instilled that in John.

The John C. DeWitt Scholarship adds to the accomplishment of receiving the Johnny D. Spirit Award. The student winners will now receive the scholarship as part of the award.

“The kids all know John. It’s really meaningful for him. We’re proud to have created the scholarship component of the spirit award so that the award will continue forever.”

In setting up scholarship funds for local students, the DeWitt family has honored their loved ones while demonstrating how deeply they care about Zeeland and its future.

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