September 2012

As I look out the windows of DeWit Manor this morning just before sunrise, the campus is so quiet. Tomorrow it will be teeming with new students, grandma’s furniture, anxious parents and numerous electronic devices. This image excites me and reassures me that I have responded to the right vocation.

Getting to this day requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Our great facilities staff paints and scrubs the residence halls, the groundskeepers manicure lawns and gardens, administrative staff ensures that every student is registered and has the appropriate financial aid, student life prepares student leaders for the joys and challenges of life in community, and faculty pore over new course material.

Excellence requires diligent preparation and a commitment to performing better today than we did yesterday, and continuing that improvement tomorrow. As I have talked with our faculty and staff over the past few weeks the enthusiasm for our new arrivals is palpable.


As we approach a new academic calendar and a fresh year of teaching and learning, we’re still hearing about faculty projects and academic honors that haven’t been previously highlighted.


Calvin’s faculty, staff and students continue to find creative and meaningful ways to connect the college to the community.

  • Calvin theater professor Stephanie Sandberg and student researchers Jordan Davis and Kristen Kibbe are interviewing Grand Rapids refugees from around the world with the goal of transcribing their stories into an ethnographic play about their resettlement and thereby inspiring change in the community.
  • First-year students, accompanied by several faculty and staff, were introduced to Calvin's 70 nonprofit and church partners during Streetfest, the college’s 20-year tradition of service learning. Together we organized food pantries, shelved books, planted rain gardens, built cabinets and performed many other chores.

Student Life

September sees the return of many Student Life traditions: the many ways we welcome students and help them feel at home at Calvin.

  • Incoming students got a hand moving in to the residence halls from faculty, staff and fellow students via We-Haul, the annual free move-in service.
  • And then there’s Chaos Day, the day students don themed t-shirts, paint their faces, decorate their lobbies and compete as residence hall tribes. The students face both physical and mental challenges, culminating in the venerable tug-of-war over a mud puddle.
  • The Sexuality Series kicks off on September 18 as author and sexual abuse survivor Nicole Bromley shares her story of hope in a presentation titled “Our Little Secret.” On September 26, we have Carol Simon, PhD speaking about her new book Bringing Sex into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity.
  • Finally, the staff in student activities is set to launch the 2012–2013 edition of Buck Fridays, featuring a wealth of events—Celebration on the Grand fireworks, the Hunger Games, a carnival, a game show, an ArtPrize kickoff—to keep students both busy and solvent.

Alumni and Parents

Fall means reunions, Homecoming and many more ways—one digital—to stay connected with Calvin.

  • Calvin parents can encourage students with birthday cakes, pizza, exam treats and other goodies through the student treats program. Last year, more than 1,800 treats were delivered.
  • Join alumni from around the world in StreetFest International 2012. The Calvin Alumni Association is encouraging alumni networks from Orange City, Iowa, to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to pick one day in September to volunteer in their communities.
  • Come home to Calvin for Homecoming and Family Weekend on October 19–21. This year’s Homecoming will feature milestone reunions, improv shows, athletic events, the Calvin Music Festival and a special Sunday morning LOFT worship service.
  • The Calvin Academy of Lifelong Learning (CALL) is kicking off fall programming with 44 class offerings. CALL now has more than 1,300 members.
  • You can now receive your favorite Calvin social media feeds through Calvin’s new phone app. (Search an app store for “Calvin College Crib Sheet” to download the Calvin app.)


This September we are blessed to welcome an outstanding group of new students, including approximately 980 first-year students and 100 transfer students. And even as we welcome the incoming class, the recruitment process for next year’s class is well underway:

  • This incoming class brings a strong academic profile, continuing Calvin’s long tradition of enrolling an academically excellent and Christ-centered group of students. The 2012–2013 incoming class has an average GPA of 3.67, ACT and SAT scores of 26.6 and 1210 respectively, and features 23 National Merit Scholars.
  • ReCommend One, a student referral campaign, challenges students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the college to refer “just one” high school senior to Calvin and then continue to support and encourage that student throughout the enrollment process.
  • The Senior Search program was recently launched, sending targeted e-mails to a broad group of prospective students around the world, encouraging them to consider Calvin and apply for admission.
  • The new issue of VERGE, a magazine for prospective students, gives a visually engaging picture of life at Calvin. Access it on most devices via, or request a copy from admissions.
  • Calvin has been approved to offer the Common Application (in addition to the college’s own online application). The Common Application is a free online undergraduate application used by more than 400 colleges and universities. You can help us to identify great students by entering their contact information on our ReCommend website:


It is thanks to our donors and friends that a Calvin education remains both affordable and accessible for a large pool of students. Through both their financial gifts and their continued presence at so many Calvin events, supporters prove themselves to be true stewards of the college’s mission.

  • The 26th annual January Series will feature another impressive lineup of speakers discussing today’s hottest topics. Long-time ABC congressional correspondent Cokie Roberts, best-selling author Rebecca Skloot and philosopher and scholar Richard Mouw are all on the list. For a full lineup of speakers and topics, visit


Our athletes received a lot of academic accolades in 2011–2012. And we’re looking forward to a lot of great competition—and a fair share of victories—in 2012–2013.

  • Four of our teams are nationally ranked: men’s and women’s cross country, men’s soccer and volleyball.
  • 123 Calvin scholar-athletes were named to the 2011–12 MIAA Academic Honor Roll. Eight of those students received the award for the fourth straight year.
  • Six Calvin teams received the MIAA Team GPA Award for producing a team grade point average of 3.3 or above. (The women’s cross country team earned this honor for the 14th straight year.)
  • Six Calvin teams received recognition from their national organizations for academic achievements.
  • To sign up to receive the Calvin-Sports Report, an email bulletin which provides timely information after varsity sporting events, go to

In late July my efforts to learn about Calvin College took me to the home of trustee Dale Venhuizen in Manhattan, Montana. Dale and Nancy are Calvin alums, and I had the good fortune to meet two of their daughters, Megan ’06 and Camille ’09, over lunch in the shadow of the Bridger Mountain Range.

I peppered them with questions about their experiences and hopes for Calvin College’s future. Megan’s response is quite similar to what I have heard from so many Calvin College alums. She said she hoped Calvin would continue in its devotion to its Christian mission and remain fearless in its engagement with ideas. What excites me most about the call to Calvin College is the paradoxical challenge of courage and obedience Megan describes so well. The college’s commitment to fearless exploration of all things is done in the context of obedience to the Christian faith as it is described in the Reformed Confessions.

It takes courage and obedience to be semper reformans, semper reformanda, or reformed and always reforming. Obedience is such an unpopular concept in our culture. It is hard to understand its value, but it is what helps followers of Christ to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer observes that “one act of obedience is a better teacher than 100 sermons.” As we begin this year it is my prayer that the Calvin community will be distinguished by its courage and obedience, and it is my hope you will join me in this prayer.



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