Shirley Van Hoeven obituary

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Shirley Van Hoeven.

Shirley Van Hoeven

Dr. Shirley Van Hoeven, a professor emerita of communication at Western Michigan University, died Sept. 8 as the result of injuries sustained in a car accident Sept. 5. She was 79.

Van Hoeven and her husband, the Rev. Donald Van Hoeven, were hit by a car going the wrong way on I-96 near Grand Rapids. The couple had been splitting their time between residences in Michigan and Florida.

Donald, who is still hospitalized in Grand Rapids, is a Reformed Church in America minister who retired from WMU in 1994 after 27 years as the campus minister.

Shirley Van Hoeven

Van Hoeven came to WMU as a graduate student and when she left nearly three decades later, was a respected and well-liked teacher, researcher and administrator.

She took a permanent position on WMU's faculty in 1971 as an instructor in the Department of Communication. Just eight years later, she was named the department's graduate program director and advisor, a position she held until her retirement in 1999 after 28 years of service to the University.

Van Hoeven was an expert in organizational values, conflict management and interpersonal communication. She taught courses in those areas, and in organizational culture as well as power and leadership, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In addition to her administrative and teaching duties, she devoted considerable time to serving on a variety of WMU organizations. They included the Graduate Studies Council, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, College of Arts and Sciences Women's Caucus, the Committee to Advise the President on Academic Priorities and the Minority Mentor/Mentee Program.

Van Hoeven's contributions outside the University encompassed numerous consulting and volunteer activities. She was a frequent speaker and presenter to community groups, including school districts, the American Business Women's Association and the Kalamazoo Consortium for Higher Education.

She also was a past president and vice president of the Kalamazoo Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors and played leadership roles with such off-campus organizations as Community Advocates for Persons With Developmental Disabilities, the Western Theological Seminary, the YWCA and the Michigan Department of Education.

Van Hoeven received numerous awards during her academic career. Among the most recent were the National Communication Association's 2001 Lifetime Teaching Excellence Award and WMU's 1998 Distinguished Service Award.

She also received WMU's Woman of the Year and University Teaching Excellence awards in 1990, and the WMU Alumni Association Teaching Excellence Award in 1976.

Van Hoeven earned a bachelor's degree in speech, physical education and English from Hope College in 1965, a master's degree in communication arts and sciences from WMU in 1970 and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from WMU in 1976. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Purdue University.


A celebration of life memorial service will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, in the First Presbyterian Church, 321 W. South St. in Kalamazoo. Visitation with the family will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the church.


Memorial gifts may be made to the endowed Shirley A. Van Hoeven Graduate Fellowship in the WMU School of Communication or the John G. Bouwman Camp Sunshine Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation Holland/Zeeland Area.

To make a memorial guestbook entry, visit