May 2013

I understand that the College’s Honors Convocation, held this year on April 17, is usually the last harbinger of spring, but this year spring seems to want to wait until Commencement. March and April have been unseasonably cold this year, but chilly weather has not dampened students’ enthusiasm for learning. The Honors Convocation gave us the opportunity to celebrate student achievement and to thank Dr. Ken Bratt for his vision and leadership as he retires from his role as director of the Honors Program.

In his remarks to the convocation audience, Dr. Bratt noted that this year, faculty assisted more than 330 students with honors projects! We are grateful for this level of faculty commitment, but we also know that Ken’s encouragement and support for faculty who participate in the program makes a critical difference to our students. While cloudy skies, cold temperatures and heavy rains tend to keep students from sun bathing, such “book-reading weather” is usually good for academic performance. Let’s hope it holds true for our students this semester as well.


Spring is the season for celebration and commendation.

  • Among the students receiving their degrees at Commencement, held May 18 in the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, are the first 24 graduates of Calvin’s master’s program in speech pathology and audiology. The college will also confer degrees on the 824 undergraduates in its 92nd class—78 of whom are from outside the U.S.—and award 22 students with master’s degrees in education at the event.
  • Fifty-one Calvin seniors will be graduating with honors, and 176 of them have been on the Dean’s List every semester at Calvin. These students were recognized at the April 17 Honors Convocation, which for the first time was streamed live around the world, allowing families of international students to take part.
  • The disaster shelter built by a team of civil and environmental engineering students—Nick Liza, Walta Asfaw, David Headley and Dan Nederhoed—withstood wind tests, shake tests and other evaluations to win the second-annual World Vision Disaster Shelter Design Competition held April 18–20 at John Brown University. The students will present their shelter (among the 17 engineering projects which include a Smart Dashboard, a submersible robot, and a wastewater treatment system) at Senior Design Projects Night, held Saturday, May 4, in the Engineering Building.
  • In April, biology major Abby Streelman, chemistry major John Strikwerda and biochemistry and engineering major Nicole Michmerhuizen—all juniors—learned that they are Goldwater Scholars. Junior physics major Jake Lampen received a Goldwater honorable mention. Since 2008, Calvin has had 14 Goldwater Scholars awarded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program—a record unmatched by any liberal arts college in the country.

Student Life

Students are honoring year-end traditions.

  • In May, students in Calvin’s residence halls welcome back former residents (upperclass students) to celebrate “Yak Day,” “Bison Day,” “Duke Day” and other theme days. The celebrations feature kickball, wiffle ball and flag football contests between current and former dorm residents plus cookouts. Each hall also closes the year with a banquet.
  • Commencement Week is a parade of activities for graduates and their families, featuring the International Graduate Celebration, the Social Work Commissioning Ceremony, the Department of Nursing Pinning Ceremony, the Teacher Commissioning Ceremony, a special Chapel, the Celebration Cookout held on Commons Lawn, the Zero Day breakfast and other events.


May features annual events and new opportunities.

  • Students, faculty and staff will gather from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, on the Commons Lawn for live music, an art sale and a cookout at the 2013 Spring Arts Festival: “Fahrenheit/Celsius.” The festival is sponsored annually by the Visual Arts Guild.
  • Business-minded women in their junior and senior years of high school are encouraged to attend the second-annual Young Women’s Business Institute, which runs July 17–19, 2013. Applications are due May 31.


Calvin alumni of all ages approach Commencement with gratitude.

  • Nearly 150 members of the Class of 1963 will be celebrating their 50-year reunion during Commencement Weekend, May 17–18. The Heritage Class will also gather for their annual reunion on June 21. These are special occasions of remembering God’s faithfulness to our alumni over the years.
  • The 1,600-member strong Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) is opening summer classes to non-members, with topics as diverse as line dancing, wildflower sketching and computer use. CALL is also offering a four-day summer concert series from June 17–20.


Spring brings a wealth of international opportunities.

  • 2013 graduates and French majors Sabrina Lee and Nathan Ritsema and French minor Soo-Jin Lee (also ’13) will be teaching English in France next academic year through French Government Teaching Assistantships. Lee (also an English major) and Landon Oakes ’13, who majors in classical languages and philosophy, were both awarded Perugia Sister City Angela Andrews Ryan Scholarships to pursue a month of intensive summer instruction in Italian language and culture in Perugia, Italy.
  • Calvin senior Derek Brinks has been accepted to participate in the 2013–2014 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. A fellowship funded by the German Bundestag and U.S. Congress, the program annually provides 75 American and 75 German young professionals the opportunity to spend a year studying in one another’s countries.
  • Students studying Spanish in Honduras this semester spent three days during Holy Week in Cedros, a small village outside of Tegucigalpa. They worked side by side with villagers there, assisting in the construction of a kitchen that mothers of kindergarteners will use to cook their children’s food. At the end of the project, the community recognized the students’ contributions with a diploma.


Spring is also “yield season” for September’s freshmen and transfer students.

  • As the landscape in higher education enrollment continues to change, I am encouraged to see the Enrollment Division working hard to cultivate new audiences while being attentive to our current students. As of late April, we are on track with our recruitment goals, but are working hard to support every student who is still undecided. Here are a few facts about Calvin College enrollment and retention.
    • This year, the financial aid office will award almost $37 million dollars in institutional financial aid to new and returning students, a 14-percent increase over last year.
    • Calvin’s 86-percent retention rate (compared to a national average of 70 percent) demonstrates that students and families are highly satisfied with their Calvin experience.
    • Calvin’s population of CRC students is about 40 percent, and the percentage of students from other denominations and non-denominational churches is rising. We still manage to recruit the same percentage of CRC students each year, but the percentage of college-bound students from the denomination continues to decline.
    • The number of students from Christian schools is steady at 53 percent; homeschoolers are increasing slightly.
    • About 25 percent of our student population are international students and students of color.

Keeping Calvin in demand has become one of my goals, and I invite you to join me. For all of our students and their families, Calvin’s “heart and mind” education is a remarkable find. Please consider how you can help promote the college you love in your corner of the world.


As the academic year comes to a close, we’re grateful for the support of the Calvin constituency.

  • On campus we are continuing to work hard to prepare the 2013–14 budget, prioritize programs and services, review our facilities needs and lay the groundwork for a new strategic plan that will strengthen every aspect of Calvin College. Look for updates in future months and opportunities to shape the future of Calvin.
  • I’ve enjoyed the many opportunities I’ve had to meet with the Calvin community both here in Grand Rapids and elsewhere. Recently, I talked with nearly 2,500 alumni through a Telephone Town Hall, hearing their joys and concerns about the college. I am continually heartened by the support of the wider Calvin community and look forward with great anticipation to future conversations.
  • It’s time for t-shirt weather, and we want to send you a shirt celebrating 20 years of the Student Activities Office bringing great music and quality conversation to campus. Send in your $60 gift to the Calvin Annual Fund at and we’ll send you your new threads. Please do remember that gifts of any size, to any area of the college, are welcome at, as we approach the end of our fiscal year on June 30.


Calvin’s athletes from many teams have made us proud.

  • The nationally-ranked men’s and women’s track and field teams took first place at the MIAA Jamboree at Olivet College and are in strong contention for MIAA titles.
  • The regionally-ranked men’s tennis team recorded an historic dual match win over Kalamazoo College—the first in school history. They went on to win a share of the school’s first-ever MIAA title.
  • On May 8, Calvin’s C Club, the college’s newly formed alumni network for varsity letter winners, will host the first-ever Calvin Athletics Awards night.

I was in California traveling to a prayer summit the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. It is so disconcerting to be away from family and community when events like this transpire. In the faces on the news that night I could see the trauma that comes when human beings encounter despicable evil, and it broke my heart. On that dark evening I was reminded of a lecture on the problem of evil I heard about from one of my colleagues.

This Calvin professor asked students to list examples of evil on the board in preparation for the discussion and then stopped the lecture and prayed for the protection of students as they contemplated this thorny philosophical problem. In a prayer chapel last week economics professor Kurt Schaefer reminded me that Jesus does not stop evil from entering the world, but meets it and transforms it.

This encouraging reminder is the gospel message of Easter, and it blesses me to serve at Calvin where I can be reminded of these truths every day. May you be blessed in the same way this Easter season.



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