August 2014

I write these words following a memorial service in Iowa for Matilda Vermeer, a great friend of the college and supporter of our mission who went to be with her Savior this summer after 94 years on this earth. On that same day we also celebrated the life and legacy of Joe Stevens who spent his career as a prominent experimental psychologist and longtime member of the Yale University faculty and remembered Calvin faculty and students by making a bequest in his will. Normally at this time of year I am quite focused on the future, but these moments of passage also remind me of the thousands of devoted alumni and friends of Calvin who make the education of future students possible.

We are now in the countdown to the arrival of new and returning students later this month, a countdown that begins already with the orientation of resident directors, new faculty and new employees. For new students and parents who may be reading this newsletter for the first time (either via email or in print), This Square Inch is a monthly newsletter that I write in order to keep the 60,000 members of CalvinNation current on happenings at the college. The lives and legacies of Matilda and Joe are part of a wonderful, supportive community that you are joining which spans both geography and time. As a community we have been praying for your safe arrival, and we look forward to meeting you in person.

Strategic Plan

In the midst of unprecedented change in higher education, our community has created a strategic plan to strengthen our place among exceptional colleges and universities.

  • The greatest resource for our plan is our shared sense of mission: that we are an academic community rooted in a Reformed understanding of Jesus Christ; that we believe a Calvin education can guide students aspiring to the transformational work of renewing this broken world; that we are a liberal arts college with distinctive professional and graduate programs; that we are dedicated both to great teaching and significant scholarship; and that we believe passionately in preparing global citizens to live and work in a diverse and interconnected world. We invite you to peruse the strategic plan website—including a recently added five-minute video.


Calvin promotes the life of the mind among Christian scholars and laypeople, including our students.

  • Summer research has long been a Calvin hallmark. Our McGregor Fellowship program funds collaborative student-faculty research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. And this summer there are 81 students working on 44 different projects with 40 professors from eight departments in the science division: astronomers studying asteroids and binary stars, chemists measuring forces in DNA molecules, biologists researching native Michigan plants and physicists trapping atoms with laser beams. Funds for the students come from a variety of sources (private donors, grants, the college and the alumni association), but all of these sources have the same goal: to enhance and expand inquiry-based learning opportunities for undergraduate students.
  • Calvin engineering professor Gayle Ermer’s paper, “The Four Pillars of Manufacturing as a Tool for Evaluating Course Content in the Mechanical Concentration of a General Engineering Curriculum,” received top recognition at the American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE) annual conference in Indianapolis. Her paper has already led to changes in Calvin courses’ content in an effort to better prepare engineering graduates to enter the manufacturing workforce.
  • The Lilly Fellows Program recently announced the selection of Jared Warren (French and History, ’11) as a 2014 Lilly Graduate Fellow. He will begin his PhD program at New York University this fall, studying the intersections of intellectual, cultural and religious history in Modern Europe. Warren will join nine others in the three-year program. The mentors are Paul Contino of Pepperdine and Susan Felch of Calvin.


We seek to identify, establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships locally, nationally and globally.

  • In mid-July our Calvin Center for Innovation in Business hosted its third annual Young Women’s Business Institute, a pre-college program to introduce high school students to business theories and practices. This year’s attendees conducted market research, developed new product and service concepts, and presented their findings at the conclusion of the three-day institute.
  • By the end of the summer our Seminars at Calvin program will have hosted 83 visiting scholars and seminar participants, plus many family members. Among the topics was “The Latino Protestant Congregations Project ” which included special guest Elizabeth Dias of TIME magazine. She gave a public talk that our Worship Institute has posted online.
  • Calvin senior Kyle Luck is discerning a call to ministry through our Jubilee Fellows program via work this summer at St. Margaret’s Anglican church in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He says Calvin, with its emphases on time management and hard work, has prepared him well! The Jubilee Fellows program fosters the next generation of church leaders and helps students explore their vocational calling.

Student Life

Calvin College equips students to think deeply, to act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

  • At the end of July we received news that vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra has been tapped to serve as the new president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Washington D.C. Shirley has served Calvin, her alma mater, faithfully for 15 years, and we will miss her considerable talents. Our loss is a wonderful gain for Christian higher education. I hope you get a chance to congratulate Shirley on this occasion.
  • The student-led Orientation Board has planned a great line-up of events to help students enjoy a day off this Labor Day, including a movie in the afternoon, a cookout on the Commons lawn and a concert in the CFAC auditorium with talented Calvin students Jared Haverdink and Jenny LaJoye.


We will strengthen Calvin’s financial foundation for future generations.

  • As we reflect on the 2013-14 fiscal year (which came to a close on June 30), Calvin’s development office is celebrating your support! Thanks to the generosity of the Calvin community, the college had the second-best fundraising year in history with $37.3 million in gifts and pledges.
  • The Calvin Annual Fund, which helps offset tuition costs for every student, saw alumni participation increase from 20.68% to 20.95%. It may seem like a small increase, but with a trend toward decreasing alumni participation nationwide, we are proud to see Calvin alumni rising to the challenge and giving strong support for current students.
  • As a final note of celebration, we nearly filled the campus map via our sponsor-a-square-inch campaign. If you sponsored a square inch, you can find it on the map, but please do so before the site closes on Aug.31!

Alumni and parents

We’re looking forward to hosting Calvin parents as they bring their sons and daughters to campus in a few weeks for the new school year. Andrea, my wife, and I will join the helpful “We Haul ” team, helping students move into the residence halls on Wednesday, Aug. 27.

  • I am eager to meet more alumni and friends as I travel throughout CalvinNation. My next stops will be in Seattle on Aug. 15 and the Denver area from Sept. 18-20. See for details.
  • There’s still time to register for the 45th annual Calvin Alumni Golf Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club, a magnificent place to spend a day with Calvin friends (not only alumni, but all parents and friends of Calvin may register).
  • If you’re an employer in the Chicago area, we’re looking for additional businesses that would like to interview our very capable Calvin juniors and seniors for internships and jobs at the third annual Chicago Career Fair in late October.


We are pursuing an environment of inclusive excellence, cultural competency and global awareness.

  • The Michigan Department of Education put its stamp of approval on a program that will give Calvin students the option to major or minor in Chinese language education. Calvin is one of only a few Christian undergraduate colleges in the U.S. to offer a Chinese language major and will be one of the only schools in Michigan to offer a Chinese education program.


Together we will create a community in which all may participate as full members, as we build on and exceed past inclusion efforts of the college.

  • Money just released a new college ranking that considers affordability, educational quality and post-graduate outcomes, and Calvin tops the list of Michigan private colleges.
  • In July, the office of pre-college programs welcomed 72 high school students to campus for the Entrada Scholars Program. Entrada introduces highly motivated, highly gifted, under-represented minority high school juniors and seniors to college life. The 2014 scholars came to study alongside Calvin students and faculty in courses such as biology, English, history and philosophy. Each Entrada Scholar leaves with great friends, Calvin memories, college credit and, if they choose to enroll at Calvin, a $4,000 scholarship. Calvin is working to extend our reach into new audiences, to expand campus culture and to become a more diverse community. In 2013, the number of racial and ethnic minority students on campus rose to an all-time high of 523 or 13 percent of our student body.


The 2014–2015 seasons are drawing nigh. Get caught up at our new sports website,

  • Coach Jerry Bergsma and his women’s golf team will play a key role in an upcoming professional golf tournament in Grand Rapids. The inaugural Meijer LPGA Classic will take place Aug. 7–10.
  • The Faculty Athletic Representatives of the MIAA member colleges present the MIAA Team GPA Award every year to conference athletic teams that have a 3.3 cumulative GPA or better (on a 4.0 scale). During the recently completed 2013–14 school year, seven of Calvin’s athletic teams achieved this distinction: women’s soccer, women’s cross country, women’s volleyball, women’s basketball, men’s cross country, women’s track and field and men’s tennis.
  • Calvin has two new coaches for men’s spring sports. John Rypel comes on as the new baseball coach, while Kyle Hofstaedter is our new men’s lacrosse coach.

This summer our family took some time for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to England, Scotland and France. Besides trying haggis and eating too many croissants, we enjoyed being together to soak up the history and culture of these great places. I was often the last family member out of the museums we visited and was quite taken with the faith and courage of English and Scottish reformers such as Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer and John Knox. Indeed, the Christ-like example of the saints—whether that of Cranmer or Vermeer—inspires the work we do today even as we anticipate the arrival of a new class of future saints. And the author of Hebrews gives us further inspiration for the work before us in this new academic year with these words: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”



This Square Inch is published 10 times per year. Please browse the archives or update your subscription at anytime.
Calvin College