Michael Van Raaphorst: The Modern Renaissance Man Blending Art, Sports, and Faith at Oak Knoll

When Michael Van Raaphorst ’18 (LS) snags a rebound and swivels to face his own basket, he likens the court ahead to a blank canvas. “There are a bunch of different moves that can get you down that court,” he explained. He uses a similar metaphor when discussing football. “I played wide receiver, and there are different creative releases to get you in the open and a variety of colorful moves you can run.”

Van Raaphorst’s ability to synthesize art and sports and weave them together with academics and spirituality is what makes him a Renaissance man. Originating in the 14th century in Italy, the Renaissance was a period of intellectual, spiritual, artistic, and religious growth, epitomized by sayings such as “a man can do all things if he will,” by the Italian humanist Leon Battista Alberti, and “man is the measure of all things,” by the Greek philosopher Protagoras.

Van Raaphorst embraces this tapestry of disciplines wholeheartedly and maintains a profound connection to Catholicism and faith. “My family always had a lot of focus on our faith,” he shared. “My parents wanted to make sure that we began growing up learning about our Catholic faith, and that was the main reason we chose Oak Knoll.” Oak Knoll was also home to his brother through grade six and is currently home to his sister in the class of 2026.

Although he won’t major in art when he attends Georgetown University in the fall of 2024, he credits Oak Knoll for instilling a lifelong love of the discipline. In his Artist Spotlight for his Advanced Placement Art Collection at Delbarton School — which he attended after graduating from Oak Knoll’s Lower School in 2018 — he wrote, “My love for art stemmed from early classes in grade school with my teacher, Mr. Brown, and continued to grow as I took classes at Delbarton.” He plans to find time, either through an academic minor or on his own, to continue creating art while undergoing the rigors of a prestigious institution and continuing to play basketball as a recruited walk-on to the Georgetown Hoyas.

“I actually wrote my college essay about that shared creative mix between disciplines,” he said. The Georgetown admissions team was undoubtedly impressed. Call him a Renaissance man, a weaver of wisdom, or a choreographer of curiosity, he is finding time to be “a measure of all things.” His passion for interconnectedness was also beautifully referenced in his Artist Spotlight, where he explained why he chose his visual theme.

“My fascination with the art of ocean waves began during vacations with my family and friends to the beach, where I would play for hours, riding, jumping over, and swimming under the waves,” Van Raaphorst wrote.

“To this day, there is no better feeling than walking on the beach, watching and listening as the waves crash against the shore. There is an intricate choreography in the way the waves form, rise, and break against the beach. The play of light on the surface, the shift in tides from dawn to dusk, is a dynamic canvas that never fails to inspire or impress. Each time a wave breaks, its appearance, feel, and movement changes. As it embarks on a graceful journey across the sea, each wave carries a unique story of its own.”

May he continue to carry his own unique story as he embarks on his journey through college, career, and life. We take pride in knowing that his love of art was first nurtured right here at Oak Knoll.