March 2013

The other day, I was talking to a freshman who had a rough first semester. He had a great time outside the classroom, but such fun can sometimes correlate with low grades, embarrassment and disappointment. In my conversation with this student, I recalled a few instances of failure in my first year of college, which I now see as some of the most important lessons I have ever learned.

I remember sitting in an economics class, listening to the lectures, reading the text and thinking I understood all there was to know about economics. My overconfidence left me baffled on the first test, which had to be one of the record low “F” grades in the history of the college. I had never received an “F” before, and I was devastated, like Adam hiding in the garden, but my dad coached me to face the consequences, admit my arrogance, learn from my mistakes and become a different kind of student than the one who started the semester. It was a hard road, but a road I needed to travel if I were to experience the renewal my dad was calling me to.

Calvin College seeks to develop agents of renewal for a broken world, and most of us are quite inspired by the new part of the renewal concept. During the Lenten season, we are reminded that renewal begins with the recognition of our brokenness, our acts of omission and commission and our failures.


This spring, Calvin has been expanding programs and honoring faculty.

  • Calvin accounting students scored record-high pass rates on the most recent CPA exam. Calvin’s 2012 results, published by the National Board of Accountancy, placed the college sixth among mid-sized programs, a category which includes Vanderbilt, Georgetown and Cornell universities.
  • The communication arts and sciences department has added a BA degree to its popular BA-MA degree in speech pathology and audiology. The department has also combined its media production and media studies programs into a film and media major—allowing students to pursue either track.
  • History professor James Bratt received this year’s Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching, the highest honor accorded a Calvin faculty member. Bratt accepted his award at the annual Faculty Awards Dinner.
  • Four more faculty honors were awarded at the event:
    • Advising and Mentoring Award: Cal Jen, business
    • Student-Faculty Research Award: John Ubels, biology
    • From Every Nation Award for Excellence in Teaching: Pennylyn Dykstra-Pruim, German
    • Community-Based Teaching Award: The nursing department

Student Life

Students are finding meaningful ways to learn and to contribute.

  • “We Are Calvin,” a new project from Student Senate (launched on Feb. 28), has given the Calvin student community a voice in the college’s campus-wide strategic planning process. Students will celebrate what they find most valuable about the Calvin experience through social media and a student rally.
  • During spring break, March 15–24, many Calvin students will serve and learn in communities around the country. The 14 Spring Break Trips, sponsored by the service-learning center, will allow students to work at racial reconciliation in Americus, Ga., home repair in Pittsburgh, Pa., and college readiness in Rehoboth, N.M.—and much more.
  • During spring semester, the Sexuality Series will explore—through panel discussions and men’s and women’s discussion groups—topics such as what it means to be a man or woman in today’s culture; how faith, families, friends, media and culture influence our thinking about sexuality; the challenges of dating in an online age and how to have a healthy marriage.


Calvin welcomes runners, walkers, musicians and a new conductor.

  • It’s time to register for the sixth biennial Festival of Faith and Music: three days of music, speakers, workshops and films about music held on campus April 11–13. Featured artists include Andrew Bird, The Welcome Wagon, Josh Garrels with Mason Jar Music, Andrew Rose Gregory and alumni and local musicians.
  • In January, John Varineau became the new conductor for Calvin’s orchestras. A longtime associate conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, Varineau has been an adjunct faculty member at Calvin since 1989.
  • This year’s From Every Nation Symposium on Race, scheduled for March 5 and 6, will feature two theatrical productions:
    • “Incognito,” a one-man play depicting a young man’s search to find his biological father, held 3:30 p.m., March 5, in the Covenant Fine Arts Center Recital Hall
    • “Loose Women,” an autobiographical exploration of Puerto Rican identity held 3:30 p.m., March 6, in the Covenant Fine Arts Center Recital Hall
  • Join more than 1,000 participants in raising money for scholarships at the annual Calvin Spring Classic, held Saturday, April 27. The event features a 5K Run/Walk on a scenic course around the Calvin campus and an indoor Family Fun Run. Register at

Alumni and Parents

Spring is about tradition and recognition.

  • During uKnight Week sponsored by Knights for Life, I joined 573 students, faculty and staff in plunging into the icy Sem Pond, thus becoming a member of the Cold Knight Club. Three jumps to go for the Golden Towel!
  • The Calvin Alumni Association has named its 2013 Distinguished Alumni:
    • Dr. James Vander Kam ’68 BD ’71, a renowned expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the John A. O’Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the University of Notre Dame.
    • Sharing the Distinguished Alumni designation are Ms. Kathy Bosscher ’68, Rev. Mike Meekhof ’76 MDiv ’84 and Mrs. Ardy Engbers Meekhof ’76—all three of whom have had lifelong careers serving the Zuni Christian Mission and School in Zuni, N.M.


Students are having a semester experience, and a history professor is celebrating a milestone.

  • As spring semester kicked off, Calvin sent students to study in York, England; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Washington, D.C.; Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Oviedo, Spain. Please pray for our students studying off campus.
  • In January, history professor Bert de Vries held a ceremony (attended by Jordanian officials) to celebrate the completion of preservation efforts on House XVIII at Umm el-Jimal—the Jordanian archeological site he has been excavating for 30 years. Funded by a U.S. State Department grant, De Vries has been restoring and establishing a virtual presence for House XVIII in collaboration with Open Hand Studios, a nonprofit run by Calvin alums Paul Christians ’03 and Jeff DeKock ’01. The team has also created curriculum about Umm el-Jimal for Jordanian schools.


We’re grateful for those who create opportunities for our students.

  • Perhaps it is no coincidence that we are communicating the results of Calvin College’s internal review of its financial situation during this Lenten season. In the fall of 2012, we commissioned an independent task force to review the college’s administration and governance in the area of finance. It has taken several months of analysis and study to gain a full and accurate understanding of all that contributed to the financial challenge the college faces today. We are sharing these results with you so that you can see what we now see about ourselves. The work of the task force, discussions among the administration and board of trustees, conversations with faculty and staff and the analysis of our practices and culture have helped us to see we have a lot of opportunities for improvement. The report found at is a summary of what we have learned from the task force. Our challenges are manageable, but we will need to be disciplined and faithful, and we will need the help of our friends. As we are ahead of our fundraising goals for this year, we are grateful to our friends who have continued to show confidence in Calvin and its mission.


The success of our graduates reminds us of the value of a Calvin education.

  • Calvin graduates get jobs. Survey responders from the Class of 2011 told us that 99 percent of them were either employed or in graduate school. But the true value of a Calvin education is demonstrated in the lives of our alumni, who are serving God in engineering firms and human-service agencies, in classrooms and studios, on Wall Street and on mission fields of all kinds.

    How can you help?
    • Point students and parents to stories about recent grads and alumni in VERGE and Spark.
    • Host a Calvin event for admitted students and parents in your area.
    • Pack up the minivan, and take three students on a campus visit.
    • Pray for the students you know. Seeking God’s will for their lives is exciting—and daunting.


With spring comes another season of success for Calvin athletes.

While our financial challenges disappoint us, they also represent an opportunity that God has laid before us to be witnesses to the renewal that is possible in Jesus Christ. The Gospels remind us that there is no Resurrection Sunday without the Cross of Good Friday. If we espouse renewal in our classrooms but do not model it in the administration and management of Calvin College, then we risk being a clanging gong.

I am inspired by the vigor with which my friends on the staff, faculty and the board of trustees and in the student body have enjoined this task. Each day, I learn more about what God has promised Calvin College, and I have every expectation that the renewal now taking place will make a great community even stronger.

Thank you for joining us in this project of renewal,



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