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From the Board of Trustees

February 2013

Dear Calvin community,

We all share a deep appreciation for and commitment to Calvin College. That is why the college’s recent financial challenge has tasked our board of trustees to take a hard look at what brought us to this point and to determine what we can do to address the challenge and move forward wiser from what we have learned.

Since identifying the budget shortfall that accumulated over several years but was just realized in recent months, the board has worked in collaboration with President Michael Le Roy to do an exhaustive financial analysis. Through this review and assessment we identified several things that contributed to the issue, including recognition that stronger board oversight may have detected the issues earlier. Yes, in hindsight the board would have greatly benefited from having the detail of information we have today regarding construction cost overruns and investment strategies. The debt, coupled with increasing health care and benefits costs, demographic shifts and a reduction in endowment spending are factors facing many colleges and universities, pose an undeniable challenge, but one that we believe can and will be successfully addressed.

President Le Roy details exactly what the financial review discovered, in short, that Calvin has been living beyond its means. Currently we are making adjustments as to how the college operates, and the board is committed to investing the time and energy necessary to create mechanisms for greater due diligence, oversight and transparency in the future.

We are grateful to President Le Roy and his leadership through the comprehensive analysis. He demonstrates a combination of genuine humility and a relentless drive to work through this issue with the board.

With a deeper understanding of how we got to this point and with expert counsel on what needs to be done to address the financial challenges, board members are committed to rolling up their sleeves, digging in and getting to work. Here are a few of the proactive steps we’ve taken so far:

  • A prioritization and strategic planning process has been commissioned. The prioritization component of this process directly addresses the financial challenge. Every program and service of the college is being evaluated and prioritized according to the college’s mission.

  • The financial department is being restructured and under new leadership.

  • The college has started a search for a new vice president and chief financial officer.

  • A new investment charter has been created including a requirement that the Investment Committee chair must be a board member appointed by the executive committee of the board. Also, a majority of the investment committee’s voting members must be members of the board and not less than one committee member must also be a member of the administration and finance (A&F) committee.

  • The investment policy is under review and being revised.

  • The A&F Committee is now meeting almost monthly.

But the work is not finished, and as a community we will work to ensure Calvin continues to fulfill its mission with excellence and enrich the lives of students every day. Our values will not change. Excellence in instruction will not be compromised. High expectations for outcomes will not change. Our Reformed identity will remain intact.

The strategic planning process, along with the prioritization effort, will ensure that Calvin remains true to its heritage of excellence in liberal arts education while also remaining true to its mission.

Together, we offer our hearts to God and ask for his blessing as we walk the path in front of us with a humble and determined spirit.

Sincerely for the board of trustees,

Scott Spoelhof