Dr. Vande Kappelle (Dr. Van) was born and raised in Costa Rica, a picturesque country in Central America. A product of his multicultural surroundings, he came to the United States as a teenager and eventually enrolled at The King’s College in Briarcliff Manor, NY. During his undergraduate years he played varsity soccer and traveled widely representing the college as a pianist and a public speaker. He studied religion and psychology while completing a major in Modern Foreign Languages. Following graduation he taught Spanish at King’s before enrolling at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), where he was granted an M.A. in Latin American Studies. He furthered his education at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he fulfilled the requirements for the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, concentrating in biblical studies. At Princeton he spent two years as a graduate assistant and then successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, “Evidence of a Jewish Proselytizing Tendency in the Old Greek (Septuagint) Version of the Book of Isaiah.” At this time he became ordained as a Presbyterian minister and worked as a pastor for two years in New Jersey before he relocated to Pennsylvania to teach religion and philosophy at Grove City College (1975-80). In 1980 he came to Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) as Chair of the Religion Department and College Chaplain.
A multi-linguist who has studied nine languages, Dr. Vande Kappelle has authored seven books and various articles and chapters for scholarly journals and texts. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities grants, including one at Princeton University, where he participated in the postdoctoral seminar “Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire,” and another at the University of Pennsylvania, where he participated in the Summer Institute in Near Eastern Archaeology, sponsored by the American Schools for Oriental Research. Dr. Vande Kappelle is listed in the 1991–93 edition of Who’s Who in Biblical Studies and Archaeology and in the 2011 edition of Who’s Who in America.
Another passion includes music, particularly jazz music. His book Blue Notes (2011) includes 365 biographical entries of jazz artists by date of birth, one for each day of the year. The book also contains valuable information on jazz styles and jazz history. For six years professor Vande Kappelle played tenor saxophone with the W&J Wind Ensemble. In 1991 he received the “Citizen of the Year” award from Community Action of Southwest Pennsylvania for Washington County and three times has been listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
His fascination with other cultures and places has led him to travel through five continents. In 1975 he spent the summer in Spain as leader of a summer study abroad experience for a consortium of colleges. A sabbatical trip through southern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in 1989 enabled him to visit many religious and archaeological sites. In the summer of 1993 he traveled to Mexico on a fact-finding team with W&J faculty, after which he presented a paper at an international conference of the Society of Biblical Literature in Münster, Germany. His most recent venture was a trip to Cuba in 2005, where he attended an international clergy conference.
Love Never Fails, Dr. Vande Kappelle’s biographical and spiritual tribute to his missionary parents, was published in 2006. This book, together with The Invisible Mountain (2010) and Into Thin Places (2011), constitutes his “Adventures in Spirituality” trilogy. The Invisible Mountain documents Dr. Vande Kappelle’s 1989 solo cross-country cycling trip to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity and Into Thin Places describes Dr. Vande Kappelle’s travels across the Mediterranean world and the Middle East in search of his cultural and spiritual roots, commenting on seminal events, persons, and places that helped shape Western sensibility.
Beyond Belief (2012) addresses the quest for God and for authentic faith in an age of science. This book is intended for two groups: (a) progressive Christians who wish to move forward in their spiritual journey and (b) individuals who have reached a critical phase in their faith journey and feel compelled to choose between two alternatives, either abandoning their faith or dismissing the claims of science and reason. Iron Sharpens Iron (awaiting publication) is a discussion guide for individuals or small groups that wish to interact with the topics introduced in Beyond Belief. Like its companion text, this guide is written for those who affirm the value of lifelong spiritual growth, realize the limits of rationality, and embrace the paradoxes in life. Hope Revealed (awaiting publication), a commentary on the book of Revelation, sets the record straight. Revelation is not as bizarre or vindictive as many have imagined. Its message is hopeful, not pessimistic, world-affirming, not world-denying, and thoroughly congruent with the biblical emphasis on love, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
Dr. Vande Kappelle is married to the Reverend Dr. Susan Vande Kappelle, a Gestalt pastoral therapist. They have two children and three grandchildren.