Lester De Koster, who served as editor of The Banner for 10 years as well as being a long-time librarian at Calvin College and a noted author, passed away April 19 at age 93.
De Koster was editor of The Banner from 1970 to 1980. He was known for his commitment to biblical interpretation and church unity and for expressing strong opinions in his editorials.
“He was much kinder to meet in person than to meet him in writing,” said Rev. Andrew Kuyvenhoven, who succeeded De Koster as editor of The Banner. “His writing had a sharp edge.”
Articles and editorials published during De Koster’s tenure were known to provoke emotional responses from readers. Nevertheless, the quality of the publication was well regarded, and under De Koster’s tutelage the Evangelical Press Association awarded The Banner “Publication of the Year” in 1979.
De Koster graduated in 1937 from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He amassed several degrees, taught English and speech in the Grand Rapids public schools, and taught speech at Calvin College before being appointed director of the college’s library in 1951.
In that role, De Koster oversaw the transition to the Library of Congress classification system as well as a significant expansion of the library’s holdings. His interest in theologian John Calvin led De Koster to begin assembling a collection of Calvin’s work.
De Koster was also a prolific author. His most well-known book, Communism and Christian Faith, was endorsed by Rev. Billy Graham and former U.S. president Gerald R. Ford, but his interest in communism and labor unions led to accusations that he himself was a socialist. De Koster was the only Democrat on the Calvin College faculty in 1960 who openly campaigned for former U.S. president John F. Kennedy.
Despite his acerbic prose, colleagues—even those with whom he had sharp disagreements—respected De Koster as a fearless scholar with a tenable faith.
“We were not on the same side on many issues, but he was a classic man,” said Kuyvenhoven. “He was very well educated, versed, and grounded.”
“He was a very intellectually tough debater, but he was a very kind man,” added former Calvin librarian Conrad Bult, who was hired by De Koster in 1965. “I remember him with a great deal of fondness.”
De Koster was a member of Calvin CRC in Grand Rapids. He is survived by his wife, Ruth, four children, and 10 grandchildren.