Birkenstock, David (1934–2018) and Veronica Marie (Piercey) (1933–2020)

By Lovanomena Zandritiana

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Lovanomena Zandritiana is a Malagasy serving as a student pastor at Biga Church in Silang Cavite, in the Philippines. Holding an M.A in Religion from Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in New Testament in the same institution.

First Published: February 13, 2022

David and Veronica Birkenstock were educators and missionaries in South Africa and the Philippines.1

Early Life

On June 18, 1934, David Birkenstock was born in Cape Town, South Africa,2 to John Joseph Birkenstock (1889-1964)3 and a British mother from London, Winnie Emmeline Watkins (1893-1978).4 The last of seven siblings, David spent his childhood on their family farm on the border of Zululand near Vryheid. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed taking care of farm animals, while at the same time, he was devoted to his studies and spent time reading books.5 From his youth, he was trilingual—English, Afrikaans, and Zulu.6

David attended school at Hlobane Primary School from 1940 to 1947. Then, he attended Vryheid High School for one year before he moved to Helderberg High School from 1949 to 1951.7

Education and Marriage

Birkenstock pursued his higher education in several colleges and universities. In 1955 he completed a four-year education diploma at Helderberg College, majoring in history and sociology. As a working student, he had to commit 30 hours a week on the college farm.8 In 1964, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and biblical studies from the University of South Africa. One year later, he finished another bachelor’s degree in education at Potchefstroom University, with several majors—educational psychology, comparative education, philosophy of education, and history of education.

Later he went to Andrews University in Michigan, where he obtained his Master of Arts in educational administration degree in 1974. 9 Completing his doctorate in the same discipline, again at Andrews, he graduated in absentia on August 9, 1976.10 As an ambitious academician, he pursued another diploma in business management at Damelin Management School and completed it in 1987.

On January 12, 1958, David wed Veronica Marie Piercey.11 Born August 22, 1933, she held a Masters of Arts degree in educational administration12 and served as a teacher at Helderberg.13 When the couple moved to AIIAS in 1996, Veronica worked with the library’s Media Resource Center (MRS).14 One year later, she joined the faculty of education in the graduate school.15 In 1998, she gained the rank of associate professor.16 She worked in different capacities as a teacher in various distance learning centers,17 director of the English Learning Program (ELP),18 and as a leader of women ministries.19 Veronica taught courses in communication, language, business, didactics, and secretarial science.20

During their 60-year marriage David and Veronica raised two children—Paul and Glenda, and had two grandchildren, Jason and Kevin.

Ministry

David Birkenstock was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1950. Six years later, he entered denominational service21 as a Bible, history, and agriculture teacher. At the same time, he cared for the dairy at Sadhaven High School, near Johannesburg. In 1958, he moved to Helderberg College to assume the role of farm manager. Two years later, he started teaching Bible and history at Helderberg High School. From 1962 to 1964, he became a college lecturer of history and sociology courses. Later, he left for a one-year study leave at Potchefstroom University, and upon his return, school administration appointed him as a lecturer22 and chairman of the history department at Helderberg College 1966 to 1967.23

In 1973, while serving as the head of the education department at Helderberg,24 accompanied by his wife, David left for a three-year degree program at Andrews University. Upon finishing his studies, the couple returned to Helderberg College, and David became the academic dean and registrar from 1976 to 1978.25 Shortly afterward, he was elected to be the rector,26 which he remained as for 16 years (1979-1995).27 At the same time, he served as a member of the Southern African Union executive committee and was responsible for the total organizational structure and functioning of Helderberg College. Despite his board responsibilities, he continued to teach several classes. He was renowned for his rapid lecture style and his ability to fit two classes worth of material into one.28 David received his ordination on August 21, 1982.29

During his career, Birkenstock taught such topics as Bible, history, church history, sociology, the fundamentals of pedagogy, the history of education, didactics, empirical education, philosophy of Christian education, business ethics, and group dynamics, etc. As a scholar, he published more than 40 articles. Among their titles are “Ringing the Change,” “The most beautiful sight in the world,” “Bible and Reformation Lands Tour,” “More love–less disciplines?”. Additionally, he conducted research studies in the area of leadership and administration, including: “A study of the methodology for developing an educational taxonomy,” “A goal analysis of Lake Michigan College,” “A study of the feasibility of Andrews University joining Phi Delta Kappa,” and “Leadership: the key dimension in Adventist Tertiary Education Administration.”30 In 1990, volume 14 of Cambridge’s “Men of Achievement” listed his name.31

Under David’s leadership, Helderberg College influenced the merging of the two church unions in South Africa in 1991.32 He encouraged harmony and inclusiveness of students of all races despite the rising racism within the region. His efforts resulted in an unprecedented increase in student enrollment from different countries.33 During his tenure, restrictions within the student body were lifted to the point that a student from any part of the world could stand for any leadership position. He upheld gender equality and the role of women in the church organization.34

In 1993, David and Veronica Birkenstock were honored as the alumni of the year at Helderberg College. In addition, he was recognized as the first international alumnus of Andrews University in 1994.35 Hailed for his academic excellence, David Birkenstock received an award for the best judged faculty publication at Helderberg College in 1995.36

In 1996, the General Conference assigned Birkenstock to the Philippines as dean of the graduate school37 and chair of the English program at Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS), in Silang, Cavite.38 In that same year, he achieved the academic rank of professor.39 After serving ten months at AIIAS, leadership appointed him acting president upon the resignation of Dr. John Pesulima.40 Later in that year, when the Asia Pacific Division divided into the Northern and the Southern Asia-Pacific divisions, the Annual Council session in Costa Rica voted AIIAS as a General Conference institution.41 The meeting also announced David as president of AIIAS, a position he held until 2002.42 He was inaugurated as its fourth president on March 3, 1997.43 In addition to his administrative duties, David continued teaching in various distance learning centers.44

Birkenstock was renowned for his people-oriented servant-leadership. 45 During his first speech as president of AIIAS on October 14, 1996, he stated, “I am here to serve…Together, we can do great things.”46 His primary concern was to facilitate the teachers and students.47 Moreover, he was a staunch advocate for the institution’s mission and spirituality.48 His concerns for AIIAS included (1) its strategic vision, (2) organizational structure, (3) public relations and marketing, (4) academic outreach, (5) community, (6) spiritual programs, and (7) social outreach.49

During his term as president, David secured a significant amount of scholarship funds to help students in need.50 His famous moto was, “If all bring a thread, soon a poor man will have a shirt!”51 In 1998, he initiated a “Presidential scholarship” at AIIAS52 and the “Go for Gold Scholarship Fund” to support students.53

Records show that David was at the forefront of introducing the religious education and the Master of Arts in Education—Library Administration programs at AIIAS.54 Additionally, he was instrumental in opening several distance learning centers (DLCs) to accommodate students from different parts of the world. Such developments created a need for better dissemination of information, thus leading to the birth of the aiias.edu internet domain website.55

The General Conference Annual Council on September 29, 2000, voted Birkenstock as one of the presidents of General Conference Institutions of Higher Learning56 and a member of the International Board of Education.57 In that same year, the education director of the General Conference, Dr. Humberto M. Rasi, presented a Medallion of Distinction, the Adventist education system’s highest award, to David.58

David and Veronica Birkenstock retired on October 31, 2002.59 Two months earlier, he had undergone heart bypass surgery.60 As he stepped down, he stated that “I leave with a great deal of satisfaction in seeing how AIIAS has grown and developed.”61 His tenure had witnessed significant transformations at the school.

Later Life

After 47 years of service for David and 40 years for Veronica, the Birkenstocks returned to their homeland in Somerset West, South Africa, for permanent retirement.62 David now enjoyed flower gardening. Roses were his favorite. Also, he planted fruit trees and bushes such as figs and gooseberries, whereas Veronica continued with odd tutoring jobs.63

In 2004, he became the interim department head of the EGW Estate in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, situated at Helderberg College.64 He served there until December 31, 2010. At the same time, Veronica taught courses in Adventist heritage and leadership. David spent time researching Ellen G. White’s writings. His favorite passage was: “God is the source of light and joy to the universe. Like rays of light from the sun, like the streams of living water bursting from a living spring, blessings flow out from Him to all His creatures. And wherever the life of God is in the hearts of men, it will flow out to others in love and blessings” (Steps to Christ). On August 24, 2015, he received a plaque of appreciation and recognition for his contribution and leadership in various capacities, such as seminars, lectures, and research.65

Admitted to a hospital with a myocardial infarction, David passed away on April 24, 2018, at Anerley in Kwazulu Natal.66 Veronica died February 11, 2020, in the Hibiscus Hospital.67

Contribution and Legacy

David and Veronica Birkenstock demonstrated outstanding devotion to educational and mission work. In addition, David was a researcher who made a remarkable contribution in the area of academics.68 At Helderberg College, he kept the education standards high while maintaining a setting suitable for holistic growth.69 Under his leadership, the college started to offer a Master of Arts in Religion degree in 1981 with affiliation to Andrews University.70 It contributed to the development of ministerial staff in South Africa71 and the expansion of the Pieter Wessels Library at Helderberg College.72 Furthermore, the EGW Research Center and Heritage room opened on campus February 13, 1983.73 The library expanded from 30,000 to more than 50,000 volumes and was linked via modem to major libraries in South Africa.74 Under David Birkenstock’s direction, Helderberg College hosted an extension of Andrews University’s bachelor’s degree program in theology and business in 1984 to serve church employees in South Africa.75

While at AIIAS, David oversaw similar developments. For instance, a new administration building was built in 2001,76 creating more room for the AIIAS Leslie Library that formerly housed administration offices.77 The new building also provided more space for the English center classrooms and lab.78 David’s leadership marked an era of academic, campus, technology, and mass communication advancement at AIIAS. During his term, AIIAS installed a new generator, satellite transmission uplink, telephone system, and email domain for the campus. 79 Internet access widened. Library automation, a library database, and automated circulation began in 2000.80 Roads, path lanes, and the bell tower, the symbol of AIIAS, were constructed.81 David Birkenstock was “more than his achievements and his accolades—he was a man of character and purpose.”82

Sources

AIIAS Publication Department. “People: Meet the President of AIIAS” AIIAS Newsflash, September 1997.

Anne B, Ina L, Ruth M., Joy O. Gina S. AIIAS Highlights, November 7, 1996.

Anne B, Ina L, Ruth M., Joy O. Gina S. AIIAS Highlights, March 6, 1997.

Amposah, F., R. Liu, Ina Longway, Ruth Manzala, and Gina Spiapco. AIIAS Highlights, January 18, 1996

Birkenstock, D., and K. Flemmer. “Prime Minister Speaks at Adventist Graduation in Cambodia.” Southern Asia Union Messenger, 46:2 1996.

Birkenstock, David, “Adventist International of Advanced Studies.” ARH, GC Bulletin 9, July 2000.

Birkenstock, David. “Dr David Birkenstock’s Family History.” E. G. White Center, Helderberg College of Higher Education.

Birkenstock, David. “Flashpoint.” The Record, 97:22, 1992.

Birkenstock, David. “Monuments in Southern Africa.” World Mission Report, Fourth Quarter, 1973.

Birkenstock, David. Personal Service Records. Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Archives.

Birkenstock, David. “The Story of Our College.” Helderberg College of Higher Education.

Birkenstock, Paul, and Glenda Birkenstock. “Life sketch of David Birkenstock”.

Bradfield, James T., and Veronica B. “From Acorn to Sturdy Oak.” Mission: A Quarterly report of world mission, April-June 1987.

Drayson, Ronald. “Volunteering in South Africa: Vocation with a difference.” ARH, September 6, 1984.

Newsbits. “Update on the Birkenstocks.” AIIAS Newsflash, 7:1, 2004.

Seventh-Day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C./Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1976 and 1999.

Young, Opal H. “AU Confers Doctorates on Two Women.” ARH, September 30, 1976.

Notes

  1. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald. 1976), 279.

  2. David Birkenstock Personal Service Records, Adventist Institute of Advanced Studies Archives, Accessed November 4, 2021.

  3. The right name remains problematic due to the lack of his actual birth certificate. The documents available had either the German or Afrikaans form of the word. In German, it is Johann Jozef Birkenstock, Afrikaans is Johannes Josef Birkenstock, and in English is John Joseph Birkenstock. It seems that these names were used interchangeably in genealogies and documents connected to the Birkenstocks. See, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Birkenstock-27 and https://ancestors.familysearch.org/en/LCVM-WYG/johan-jozef-birkenstock-1889-1964. Noteworthily, David Birkenstock addresses his father as Johannes Joseph Birkenstock. See David Birkenstock, “Dr David Birkenstock’s Family History,” E. G. White Center, Helderberg College of Higher Education.

  4. J. J. Birkenstock met Winnie Watkins when he went to London after his studies at Friedensau in Germany. In 1915, Johannes and Winnie married and returned to South Africa. J. J. Birkenstock was renowned for his successful ministry as a pastor, whereas Winnie was a dedicated Christians who spent time reading the Scriptures. The couple planted several churches including the Adventist church in Ermelo, the Worcester Church—the first Afrikaans church in the Cape Conference. Moreover, they founded churches in Parys and Potchefstroom. After years of depression, J. J. Birkenstock left the ministry to farm in Hlobane in 1934. See David Birkenstock, “Dr David Birkenstock’s Family History,” E. G. White Center, Helderberg College of Higher Education.

  5. Paul and Glenda Birkenstock, “Life sketch of David Birkenstock.”

  6. AIIAS Publication Department, “People: Meet the President of AIIAS,” AIIAS Newsflash, September 1997, 9.

  7. David Birkenstock Personal and Professional Profile,” Folder: “David Birkenstock,” document: “Personal Service Records”. Accessed November 4, 2021.

  8. AIIAS Publication Department, “People: Meet the President of AIIAS” AIIAS Newsflash, September 1997, 9.

  9. David Birkenstock, Educational Records. Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Archives. Folder “David Birkenstock,” Document: “Personal Service Records.” Accessed November 4, 2021.

  10. David Birkenstock graduated with the first two women who received a doctoral degree at Andrews University. See Opal H. Young, “AU Confers Doctorates on Two Women,” Adventist Review, September 30, 1976, 17.

  11. David Birkenstock, Records.

  12. Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Publication Department, “People: Meet the President of AIIAS” AIIAS Newsflash, September 1997, 9.

  13. James T. Bradfield and Veronica Birkenstock, “From Acorn to Sturdy Oak,” Mission: A Quarterly report of world mission, April-June 1987, 14; Seventh-Day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1999), 387.

  14. Anne B, Ina L, Ruth M., Joy O. Gina S. AIIAS Highlights, November 7, 1996.

  15. AIIAS Board Minutes, October1997.

  16. AIIAS board Minutes, March 1998

  17. AIIAS Highlights, September 26, 1997; AIIAS Highlight, June 1999.

  18. “The week at AIIAS,” AIIAS Highlights, June 5. 1998.

  19. Puring Ragui, “An Open Letter,” AIIAS Highlights, April 18, 2002.

  20. AIIAS Highlight, January 1996.

  21. David Birkenstock, Employee Service Record.

  22. David Birkenstock, Records; David Birkenstock, “Monuments in Southern Africa,” World Mission Report, 1973, 3.

  23. Personal and Professional Profile of David Birkenstock.

  24. David Birkenstock, “Monuments in Southern Africa,” World Mission Report, 1973, 3.

  25. David Birkenstock, Records.

  26. After 1975 the administrator of the college no longer carried the title of “principal” but “rector”. The designation changed to “president” after 2001. See David Birkenstock, “The Story of Our College.” (Helderberg College of Higher Education).

  27. The chief administrator was designated as a “Principal” until 1974, a “Rector” until 1999, and “President” after the year 2000. “Rector” is a ca “Helderberg College,” Accessed October 29, 2021, https://www.adventistarchives.org/helderberg-presidents.

  28. Paul and Glenda Birkenstock, “Life sketch of David Birkenstock.”

  29. “Bulletin Board,” ARH, October 28, 1982, 22.

  30. David Birkenstock Personal and Professional Profile.

  31. AIIAS Publication Department, “People: Meet the President of AIIAS,” AIIAS NEWSFLASH, September 1997, 9.

  32. Birkenstock highlights the role of Helderberg College which significantly influenced the merger. See, David Birkenstock, ARH, July 11, 1996, 2.

  33. Birkenstock reported that the Helderberg College represents “262 students from every racial group in South-Africa and 18 other countries”. See “Flashpoint,” The Record, 97:22, 1992, 8.

  34. Arthur O. Coetzee initiated this integration of the student body in 1974, but the government restrictions were not lifted until 1981. See, David Birkenstock, ARH, July 11, 1996, 2.

  35. AIIAS Highlights, January 18, 1996.

  36. AIIAS Publication Department, “People: Meet the President of AIIAS” AIIAS NEWSFLASH, September 1997, 9.

  37. Adventist Review, July 11, 1996, 2; David Birkenstock and Ken Flemmer, “Prime Minister Speaks at Adventist Graduation in Cambodia,” Southern Asia Union Messenger, 46:2, 1996, 3.

  38. AIIAS Highlights, June 14, 1996

  39. Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Board Minutes, February 5, 1995. Accessed November 4, 2021.

  40. David Birkenstock, Board Minutes 3, August 1996.

  41. David Birkenstock, “President’s Report,” AIIAS Board Minute, March 2001; “The Week at AIIAS,” AIIAS Highlights, November 1996.

  42. Dr. Julian Melgosa replaced David Birkenstock. See ARH, August 29, 2002.

  43. Anne B, Ina L, Ruth M., Joy O. Gina S. AIIAS Highlights, March 6, 1997.

  44. AIIAS Highlights, June 26, 1997; Ina Longway, “A Week not at AIIAS” AIIAS Highlights, August 7, 1997.

  45. Ronald Drayson, “Volunteering in South Africa: Vocation with a difference,” Adventist Review, 1984, 15.

  46. “Message from the New AIIAS President” AIIAS Highlights, October 16, 1996.

  47. David Birkenstock, “Monuments in Southern Africa,” World Mission Report, vol 62, no..4, 1973, 3.

  48. Helderberg College Newspaper; “Window on the World,” Australasian Record, June 2, 1984, 10; Ronald Drayson, “Volunteering in South Africa: Vocation with a difference,” Adventist Review. 161:36 1984, 14.

  49. Anne B, Ina L, Ruth M., Joy O. Gina S. AIIAS Highlights, November 7, 1996, 1.

  50. David Birkenstock, “Monuments in Southern Africa,” World Mission Report, 62:4, 1973, 3.

  51. David Birkenstock, “President’s Report,” AIIAS Board Minutes, 2000, Appendix A, 3.

  52. David Birkenstock, “President’s Report,” AIIAS Board Minutes, 2000, Appendix A, 3.

  53. David Birkenstock, “President’s Report,” AIIAS Board Minutes, 1997-1998,

  54. Annette Melgosa. “MA in Education--Library Administration Now Available,” AIIAS Highlights, January 24, 2002.

  55. David Birkenstock, “President’s Report,” AIIAS Board Minutes, 1997-1998,

  56. Annual Council of General Conference Executive Committee, September 26, 2000. Accessed October 29, 2021. https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC2000-09-10AC-a.pdf.

  57. Adventist Review, 2000. Accessed October 29, 2021, https://www.adventistreview.org/archives/2000-1547/story5-4.html.

  58. AIIAS Highlights, March 2000.

  59. David Birkenstock, AIIAS Board Minutes, 2002, 9; “The New Milestones for Baltic Pastors”. In Ministry Outside the Lines. Adventist Review, August 29, 2002. Accessed October 29, 2021, https://www.adventistreview.org/archives/2002-1535/news.html.

  60. David ands Veronica Birkenstock, “AIIAS Lovebursts,” AIIAS Highlights, August 22, 2002.

  61. David Birkenstock, AIIAS Board Minutes, October 6, 2002.

  62. . Puring Ragui, “An Open Letter,” AIIAS Highlights, April 18, 2002

  63. Newsbits, “Update on the Birkenstocks”. AIIAS Newsflash, 7:1, 2004, 6.

  64. General Conference, Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2004), 30. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (2007), 31; E. G. White Research Center, D. Birkenstock, Helderberg, Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (2008), 462.

  65. Pictures sent by Yvette Sparrow. Plaque of Appreciation posted in the Ellen G. White Center, situated in the Pieter Wessels Library at Helderberg College of Higher Education, 27 Annandale Drive Helena Heights, Somerset West, 7130, Western Cape, South Africa.

  66. Richard Koker, Facebook post on Helderberg College Alumni official page. Accessed December 24, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/groups/22284582118/search/?q=David%20Birkenstock.

  67. Richard Koker, Facebook post on Helderberg College Memories pages. Accessed January 11, 2022. https://www.facebook.com/groups/618157781562658.

  68. David Birkenstock, “Monuments in Southern Africa,” World Mission Report, 62:4, 1973, 3.

  69. Ronald Drayson, “Volunteering in South Africa: Vocation with a difference,” ARH, September 6, 1984, 15.

  70. AIIAS Publication Department, “People: Meet the President of AIIAS,” AIIAS NEWSFLASH, September 1997, 9.

  71. Veronica testifies that “Helderberg’s students have brightened Africa with the truth and the skills that they have learned.” See Veronica. B and James T. Bradfield, “From Acorn to Sturdy Oak,” A Quarterly Report of World Mission, April 1987, 14; Extended History, Helderberg College (1928+). Retrieved October 29, 2021. https://hche.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/HBC-College-History_Extended.pdf.

  72. G. E. Garne, “New Library is Opened at Helderberg College,” ARH, January 1981, 19.

  73. Eric Armer, “E.G. White Research Center Opened,” ARH, April 14, 1983, 23.

  74. AIIAS Publication Department, “People: Meet the President of AIIAS,” AIIAS NEWSFLASH, September 1997, 9.

  75. Ronald Drayson, “Volunteering in South Africa: Vocation with a difference,” ARH, September 6, 1984, 14.

  76. David Birkenstock, “President’s Report,” AIIAS Board Minutes, 2000-2001, 4

  77. David Birkenstock, “Adventist International of Advanced Studies,” ARH, GC Bulletin 9, July 2000, 8.

  78. Anne Bissell. “Inauguration” AIIAS Highlights August 30, 2001.

  79. Daniel Opuku-Boateng, “The week at AIIAS.” AIIAS Highlights, September 16, 1999.

  80. A. Melgosa, “Library Automation,” AIIAS Highlights, 7:48, 1999; Felipe Tan, “History in Making,” AIIAS Highlights, October 26, 2000.

  81. David Birkenstock. “The Speech I Was Not Allowed to Give,” AIIAS Highlights, August 12. 1999.

  82. Paul and Glenda Birkenstock, “Life sketch of David Birkenstock.”

×

Zandritiana, Lovanomena. "Birkenstock, David (1934–2018) and Veronica Marie (Piercey) (1933–2020)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 13, 2022. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=EJDA.

Zandritiana, Lovanomena. "Birkenstock, David (1934–2018) and Veronica Marie (Piercey) (1933–2020)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 13, 2022. Date of access May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=EJDA.

Zandritiana, Lovanomena (2022, February 13). Birkenstock, David (1934–2018) and Veronica Marie (Piercey) (1933–2020). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=EJDA.