Serving West Michigan Since 1899

Elliot A. Tanis

July 22, 2021
Holland, MI



Wednesday, July 28, 2021
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Dykstra Funeral Homes
Mulder Chapel
188 West 32nd Street
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 392-2348
Driving Directions


Thursday, July 29, 2021
1:00 PM EDT
Live Stream
Third Reformed Church
111 W 13th St
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 392-1459


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Mission Memorial Fund - Third Reformed Church
111 W 13th St
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 392-1459
Web Site

Tanis Family Scholarship Fund - Hope College
PO Box 9000
Holland, MI 49422-9000

Please specify that donation is for Tanis Family Scholarship Fund

Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Elliot Tanis, age 87, of Holland, died peacefully on July 22, 2021, at The Inn of Freedom Village surrounded by his wife and three children.

Elliot was born on April 23, 1934, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the third of four children. His father, Edward Tanis, was a minister in the Reformed Church in America, and so the Tanis family moved regularly, also living in Wisconsin and Iowa as he grew up.

In fact, Elliot first met his wife, Elaine Buteyn, in Waupun, Wisconsin, when they were children. Their romance was kindled when they both attended Central College in Pella, Iowa, where each received their Bachelor of Arts degrees, and they were married on December 29, 1959 (after Elliot had served two years in the US Army and Elaine returned from three years teaching English in Japan).

Elliot received his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in mathematics from the University of Iowa and began his teaching career at the University of Nebraska in 1963. He soon moved to Hope College, however, and taught mathematics with an emphasis on statistics there from 1965 until his retirement in 2000, at which time he was named a professor emeritus.

During his 35 years at Hope, Elliot received the Hope Outstanding Professor-Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award in 1989, chaired the math department for more than a decade (1971-1982 and 1995-97), and served as interim dean for the natural sciences (1993-95). He also was co-leader of Hope’s May Term program at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan,five times (1987, 1992-94, and 1996).

Probability and Statistical Inference, which Elliot wrote with his University of Iowa mentor Dr. Robert Hogg, was first published in 1977 and has subsequently had 10 editions, the most recent being released in 2019. Elliot also wrote dozens of papers on statistics, as well as on the Dutch artist M.C. Escher and the mathematical properties found in his art.

After his retirement and until shortly before he became ill, he was very active in the Hope Academy of Senior Professionals (HASP), which gave him a Distinguished Service Award earlier this year.

Elliot was an active member of Third Reformed Church, where he served three times as an elder, including as vice president of consistory. He also volunteered with the youth group and was an occasional Sunday School teacher.

Elliot loved tennis, mystery novels, and traveling. He continued playing tennis up to three times a week until early May. A trip in the mid-1960s through Europe to the Arabian Gulf only whetted his appetite for more overseas experiences. The Tanis family spent a sabbatical semester in England, and he regularly brought the whole family or individual members with him on trips to academic conferences in Europe and Asia. He was thrilled to participate in his daughter Ellen’swedding in Palestine, cherished mission trips to Kenya and Zambia with his son Joel, and visited his son Phil, who has been living in Germany, multiple times.

Elliot is survived by his wife of 61 years, Elaine; three children and their families: Phil and Gretchen Tanis, Jon and M.E.; Joel and Kathy Schoon-Tanis, Harper and Beatrix; Ellen and Habeeb Awad, Sophie and Simon; his brother Wayne and sister-in-law Mary Jane Tanis; his sisters-in-law Lois Miller and Margaret Boggs and her husband Blair; and many nieces and nephews and their families.

Elliot was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Agnes Tanis, his brother Paul and sister-in-law MarjorieTanis, and his sister Marilyn and brother-in-law Darrell Franken.

A visitation will take place on Wednesday, July 28, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Dykstra Mulder Chapel (188 32nd St, Holland). A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 29, at 1:00 p.m. at Third Reformed Church (111 W. 13th St., Holland).

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Tanis Family Scholarship Fund at Hope College or the Mission Memorial Fund at Third Reformed Church (Holland,Michigan).