History and Political Science
When he joined Olivet's faculty in 1993, Dr. Van Heemst was the first political scientist hired in the history of Olivet. He developed the program, which focuses on the four major areas of political science: American government, political theory, international relations and comparative politics. In 2016, he became chair of the Department of History and Political Science.
Relating with students is one of his passions. He sponsors the student clubs Capitol Hill Gang, the Academy, and International Justice Mission; and also Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society.
In a 10-year period, he authored five books, which include Empowering the Poor: Why Justice Requires School Choice,Herman Dooyeweerd and Eric Voegelin: A Comparative Study, Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises, and Splashing in Puddles: How to Be a Father to Your Daughter, and College: What's the Point? Embracing the Mystery of the Kingdom in a Postmodern World.
In 2013, he received Olivet's Samuel L. Mayhugh Award for Scholarly Excellence. His other awards include the Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence and the Second Mile Award. He is a member of the American Political Science Association.
In his free time, DVH (as he's known on campus) enjoys long distance running; playing tennis; reading; and spending time with his wife, April, their twin daughters, Maggie and Ellie, and triplet daughters, Elizabeth, Annika and Jessica.
Having grown up on the East Coast, he's a huge New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets fan.
Attorney, professor, director, visionary — Dr. Emmerich has devoted his professional career to learning and teaching others about the Anglo-American legal tradition. His Christian worldview, combined with real world experience, makes him a dynamic advocate for our venerable legal heritage and for religious liberty.
Professor of legal studies and legal scholar in residence at Olivet since 2012, he is designing and teaching 100-, 200-, 300- and 400-level courses in law, government, politics, Christian citizenship, democracy and U.S. church-state relations.
In 2001, Dr. Emmerich founded the Center for Law and Culture, an Illinois nonprofit organization that works closely with Christian higher education to inspire virtuous leadership in public life — particularly in the strategic fields of law, government and politics. Beginning in 2012, the Center is forging a close partnership with Olivet to launch the premier legal studies program among the member institutions of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.
Before joining Olivet's faculty, Dr. Emmerich implemented and taught a rigorous curriculum in politics and law at Trinity Christian College (Ill.). He has served as national director of law student ministries for the Christian Legal Society; as pre-law director for Wheaton College (Ill.) and Trinity International University (Ill.); as executive director of the Center for Church/State Studies in the College of Law at DePaul University (Ill.); and as a military attorney and magistrate with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.
A popular speaker on the topics of Christian citizenship, law and religion, and religious liberty, Dr. Emmerich has addressed groups at colleges and universities across the country. He has been interviewed on radio and television programs, including the BBC World News program, "American Evangelicals and the Environment." He served as the advisor and administrator for the Telly and Aurora Award-winning PBS documentary film, "Between Heaven and Earth: The Plight of the Chesapeake Bay Watermen," produced by the Center for Law and Culture in 2007.
His publications include co-authoring several major articles on religious liberty with his mentor and former employer, Arlin M. Adams, a former federal appellate judge. He also worked as a research consultant with Judge Adams on the Penn Law School Project on Religious Liberty. Their book, A Nation Dedicated to Religious Liberty: The Constitutional Heritage of the Religion Clauses (1990), included a foreword by Warren E. Burger, former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. It has been cited prominently in two U.S. Supreme Court cases and several lower federal court cases.
In 2005, Dr. Emmerich collaborated on an Amicus Curiae Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of McCorvey (fka Jane Roe) v. Hill. He has also been published in the Journal of Law and Religion, Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Christian Legal Society Quarterly. He was the principal author of the CLS Attorney Chapter Manual and the Law Student Ministries Student Chapter Manual for the Christian Legal Society.
Dr. Emmerich has received the Army Commendation Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster), Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal. As a student at the University of Idaho College of Law, he was a member of the Law Review and received the Corpus Juris Secundum Award for legal scholarship.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, into a military family, Dr. Emmerich enjoys outdoor activities with his family. He also makes time for collecting and reading books on a vast array of topics, watching movies from all eras, and — somewhat awkwardly, given Olivet's summer guests — cheering for the Minnesota Vikings.
Dr. Emmerich and his wife, Susan, are the parents of one daughter, Lydia. They are active members of Moraine Valley Church, Palos Heights, Ill.