Al Van Maren ’65 remembered for loyalty, generosity
The Carthage community is paying tribute to Al Van Maren ’65, whose unflinching dedication and generosity to his alma mater made him a larger-than-life Carthaginian.
He passed away at age 78 on July 13.
Mr. Van Maren’s cumulative giving to the College approaches $1.4 million, including a recent $200,000 gift toward the future School of Business and Economics. He also served on the Alumni Council for nearly 20 years and was active in fundraising and relationship-building for the College.
Besides successful business ventures in real estate, janitorial management, and signage, Mr. Van Maren taught business courses for 32 years at Wilbur Wright College in Chicago. In retirement, he operated an alpaca farm at his home in Harvard, Illinois.
“Al is among our most successful, humble, and generous Carthaginians,” said Thomas Kline, vice president for institutional advancement. “I feel extraordinarily grateful to have come to know him better in recent years and for the opportunity to celebrate his life and achievements publicly before his passing. Al has left an indelible mark on Carthage that will endure for generations to come.”
Just four days before he died, Carthage welcomed Mr. Van Maren and more than 50 of his relatives and friends to campus for a special event that celebrated his legacy.
After a guided tour of Carthage facilities named in Mr. Van Maren’s honor — like the Van Maren Press Box overlooking Art Keller Field and the Van Maren Skybox Classroom, recently converted to a wrestling practice facility — the visitors attended a program celebrating his lasting impact.
Joking that he envies billionaires who can give even more, Mr. Van Maren described his philosophy on charitable giving.
“You can do something for your fellow man,” he said at the program in the Clausen Center. “I think it’s our obligation as Christians to do just that. Nothing makes me feel better than to help people.”
For his philanthropy and service, Mr. Van Maren received the Carthage Flame — a gold medallion representing the highest honor the College bestows. He is the 31st recipient selected by the Board of Trustees, which created the award in 1988.
“I am thrilled we were able to recognize Al’s lifetime of contributions to Carthage in this important way,” said Carthage president John Swallow. “The Carthage Flame represents the light each recipient has brought to our community in furthering our mission of truth, strength, and service. I can think of no more deserving recipient than our friend, Al Van Maren.”
Family members will accept the Flame on Mr. Van Maren’s behalf during the 2022 Commencement celebration next May. Because of his declining health, the July 9 program featured a touching temporary solution: Irma (Niekamp) Anderson ’48 loaned him the medallion that her husband, the late Alan Anderson ’50, received in 2004.
The two men knew each other well. Mr. Anderson was a longtime Carthage staffer who served as president in 1986-87.
His daughter, Jane Anderson Spencer ’80, found herself constantly compared to the virtuous Al Van Maren while growing up. After joining the staff as alumni director in 1986, she quickly realized why her dad admired the man so much.
“With Al at the helm, the Alumni Council’s commitment, grit, optimism, and love for Carthage truly played a major role in the success and strength that the College experiences today,” said Ms. Spencer, now assistant director for major gifts in the Office of Institutional Advancement.
Enrolling in 1961, when Carthage was located in western Illinois, Mr. Van Maren studied there for three years and then became part of the first graduating class on the Kenosha campus. As a student, he competed in football and wrestling while actively participating in Delta Omega Nu fraternity and service organization Circle K International.
He later reconnected with classmate Malcolm Mitchell ’65 on the Alumni Council, strengthening their friendship.
“Al, you are a very generous man to your extended family and the community,” Mr. Mitchell told his friend at the July 9 program. “You are always willing to step up and help out when needed, to help someone get a scholarship or start a career, or to untangle a family or business mess.”
Philanthropically, Mr. Van Maren consistently supported Carthage operations, scholarships, athletics, and major building projects. Most recently, he established an endowment for the School of Business and Economics, a new organizational structure that’s coming in fall 2022.
The school will bring existing bachelor’s and master’s degree programs together, paving the way for greater faculty collaboration and new partnerships. Input from business leaders will continually inform the curriculum.
Mr. Van Maren’s gift will specifically support marketing, the third-largest undergraduate major at Carthage. He once served as chairman of Sales and Marketing Executives International.
A service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 504 E. Diggins St. in Harvard, Illinois. It will also be broadcast live through the church’s Facebook page.
After the service, an informal visitation and gathering is planned at AlsPacas farm, 19860 Lembcke Road in Harvard.