History of the NAUL,  kindly provided by Karla Vandersypen (updated December 2012)

The Netherlands America University League (NAUL) was inaugurated on December 3, 1976 on the University of Michigan campus.  The founder was Jan DeVries, a Dutch native and a professor at the UM School of Public Health.  He had talked of his plans with attendees at the “Dutch lunch,” which started in the School of Education in 1974 as a noontime occasion for speaking Dutch while discussing issues of interest to those with a connection to the language or to the Netherlands.  These Dutch-Americans and lovers-of-things-Dutch became the NAUL’s first members.  (The Dutch lunch has continued without a break until this day; it meets every Thursday in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures in the 3rd-floor conference room, Modern Languages Building, noon to 1 pm.)

At first, DeVries envisioned an informal group whose objective was to promote contact among people at the University and in the Ann Arbor area who came from the Netherlands, had studied or worked there, or had academic or other contacts in the Netherlands.  He took as his model an earlier Netherlands America University League which had met in Ann Arbor from 1953 to1958.  That group had in turn been inspired by an organization which began at Columbia University during World War II: a group of Dutch and American academics who by their cooperative work aimed to make Dutch culture more known in the United States.

The NAUL carried on in an informal mode in the beginning, sponsoring films and speakers, celebrating Sinterklaas, offering support and friendship to Dutch students and faculty.  For the first four years, funding was also informal, dependent mainly on contributions from individuals.

The group moved to incorporate early in 1980 and was granted tax-exempt status. The Articles of Incorporation state that NAUL’s purpose is “To provide and promote academic, scientific and socio-cultural exchanges with appropriate persons in the Netherlands and to operate exclusively for educational and cultural purposes.” The first board of directors was elected in the spring of 1980, and a dues schedule was established.

NAUL’s programs and contacts continued to expand.  One focal point was the University of Michigan program established in cooperation with the Dutch government in 1950, the Netherlands Visiting Professorship (NVP).  (The original interest leading to negotiations was due to the upcoming celebration of the 100th anniversary, in 1947, of the founding of the Dutch colony in Holland, Michigan.)  Each visiting professor traditionally presented a NAUL program on his or her subject of expertise. The NVP program continued, with only three short periods of hiatus, until the end of the fall term, 2010, when the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences decided to discontinue funding of their half of the salary and travel expenses.

Another focal point was the joint program, inaugurated in 1981, between the UM and the Stichting voor Vertalingen in Amsterdam (Foundation for the Translation of Dutch Literary Work) by which the two institutions would share the cost of the salary of an annual visiting Dutch writer-in-residence on the UM campus.  The initial spark came from the visit to the UM of distinguished Dutch author Bert Schierbeek in October 1979; Schierbeek was the unanimous choice to fill the position of Writer-in-Residence in the inaugural year of the program, 1981/82.  The visiting writers typically gave lectures and readings, not only in Ann Arbor, but also on other campuses in the U.S.  Many visited Dutch language classes, in addition to holding their own courses in creative writing.  This program continues, although on a more irregular schedule, with the candidates now proposed by the Literair Produktie Fonds in Amsterdam. To date, eighteen Dutch writers have spent academic years or terms in Ann Arbor.

In spite of considerable interest in Ann Arbor in things Dutch from early in the 20th century, the first time Dutch was taught at the UM was the Fall of 1968.  A graduate student, a native Hollander, gave instruction in elementary Dutch in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures through the 1973/74 academic year. Then a series of visiting instructors from the Netherlands offered a first-year, and then also a second-year language sequence, plus an advanced seminar on their various specialties.  An agreement between the UM and the Netherlands Ministry of Education and the UM stipulated that each of the two parties would fund half the salary of an instructor whose rank was to be Visiting Lecturer.

In the 1982/83 academic year, Ton Broos became the Visiting Lecturer in Netherlandic Language and Literature.  Later, the University established the Dutch lectureship as a regular position in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures.  Ton Broos, now Director of Dutch and Flemish Studies, continues in that position until his well-deserved retirement in September 2012. Dr. Anne Marie Toebosch  succeeded him at that time.

Even before Broos’s tenure, some of the Lecturers were solid contributors to the activities of the NAUL, but Broos very soon became central to the organization’s functioning.  After the death of president and founder Jan DeVries in December 1984, Broos was elected NAUL president at the March 1985 membership meeting.  He has held that office most of the time since then, up to the present moment (2013).

Broos’s academic connections have enriched the literary and cultural offerings made possible through the UM, with assistance from the NAUL.  He has been active in fostering exchanges between local Dutch scholars and those at other American colleges and universities.  In June 1986, he organized the meeting of the Third Interdisciplinary Conference on Netherlandic Studies at UM.  NAUL members helped to host the event, and mounted two exhibitions in support of the conference: one on the Dutch in Michigan, using manuscript material from the holdings of the Bentley Historical Library; and one showing early Revolutionary (late 18th-century) pamphlets and caricatures owned by visiting Writer-in-Residence Arie van den Berg, supplemented by material in the UM Library.

In 2002, Dr. Broos organized the meeting of the Eleventh Interdisciplinary Conference on Netherlandic Studies which met in Ann Arbor, for which the NAUL was one of the sponsors.  Another exhibition, “Netherlandic Treasures at the University of Michigan Library,” was organized in conjunction with the conference by NAUL member Karla Vandersypen.  (This exhibition is still available for viewing online at:

The NAUL, along with the families and friends of NAUL founder Jan DeVries (d. Dec. 1984), and of long-time NAUL member Meindert Van der Kooy, who died in March 1985, established a memorial fund at the University of Michigan in their honor.  In 1996, as part of an effort to draw more attention to things Dutch, with the eventual aim of fund-raising on behalf of the Dutch Studies program in the UM Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, the DeVries-Van der Kooy Memorial Lecture was inaugurated (supported by the UM memorial fund, to which the NAUL continues to contribute).  This Lecture has become an annual event; the speakers make a distinguished list of experts in various fields. See:

Over the years, the NAUL has presented for its members films, lectures, readings, panel discussions, museum tours, musical afternoons, picnics, rijsttafels, and their ever-popular Sinterklaas party. It has also sponsored or co-sponsored a reception for the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (1977), numerous carillon concerts, a Dutch Dada Manifestation (1990) and a Symposium on Euthanasia (1993), participated in the 1982 visit of Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus during the Bicentennial celebration of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the U.S. and the Netherlands, and met with Miep Gies when she was at the UM receiving the 1994 Wallenberg Award.

The following writers, artists, and scholars are among those who have featured in programs arranged by the NAUL for its members and university audiences. These include both Dutch visitors and speakers from the UM or other American universities with a Dutch connection through birth or through later academic ties and affiliations:
    Artist Karel Appel;
    Actor Jules Croiset;
    Filmmakers Philo Bregstein, Johan van der Keuken, Ger Thijs;
    Musicians Hudson Ladd, Percival Price, Jan Krosenbrink, Maria Rose, Margo Halsted, Bernard Bartelink, Johan Van Kempen, Joop de Lange, Todd Fair, Corinne Schat Hillebrand, Rob Utterback, Jaap Schröder, Leone Buyse, Michael Webster, Louis Andriessen;
    Scholars J.W. Schulte Nordholt, H.G. Lammers, Loren Barritt, Richard Lauwaars, E.M. Beekman, Ton Broos, Walter Lagerwey, Sam Eldersveld, William Z. Shetter, F. L. van Holthoon, Rudolf Arnheim, Frans Stokman, Margo Halsted, Roland Willemyns, Simon Schama, Celeste Brusati, Willem Koops, Jelle Kingma, Rolf Wolfswinkel, Johanna H. Prins, Freerk Loodsma, Rik van Daele, Ben Broos, Ton Beekman, Frits van Oostrom, Arthur Verhoogt, Dick de Boer, Maarten Lindeboom;
    Writers J. Bernlef, Remco Campert, Jules Deelder, Frans Kellendonk, Hans Plomp, Jean Schalekamp, Simon Vinkenoog, Estaban Lopez, Bert Schierbeek, Henk Romein Meyer, H. C. ten Berge, F. de Vree, Henk van Kerkwijk, Hugo Brandt Corstius, Leo Vroman, Mischa de Vreede, Peter Ten Hoopen, Cees Nooteboom, Gerrit Kouwenaar, Hugo Claus, Judith Herzberg, James Holmes, Jan Holsbergen, Arie van den Berg, Kester Freriks, Renate Dorrestein, Hella Haasse, Jan Donkers, Rob Schouten, Andreas Burnier, Thomas Rosenboom, Marja Brouwers, Benno Bernard, Marga Minco, Graa Boomsma, Christine Kraft, Dick Schouten, Jean-Pierre Plooij, Bert Jansen, Mia Meijers, Maria Stahlie, Herman Stevens, Martin Bril, Robert Vernooy, Rene Huigen, Arthur Japin, Patty Scholten, Karel Glastra van Loon, Henk van Woerden.

The NAUL layman lecturers program started in 2012.
The first lecturer was Dr. Rob Van der Voo,   UofM Professor of Geological Sciences