March 2014

Last week I had lunch with a student who was back on campus and enrolled in classes after a hiatus of several semesters. As we talked, he shared details from his journey, including the low points of his suffering, but also the first brave steps of renewal, the being “retrieved from the ashes” as it were. I don’t think we college presidents share enough such stories. Rather, we often err on the side of triumphant student achievement and institutional achievement.

Those stories are worth celebrating, to be sure, but over the past few decades of higher education service, I have found the most riveting stories to be those right under our noses, those told via the numerous lives retrieved from the ashes each year. We gather here at Calvin to learn what it is to have the mind of Christ, and in the process of living and learning together we confront our own depravity, and we are reminded and remember that before God we are but dust. And it is in this place of honesty with ourselves and contrition before God that we all begin to be retrieved and renewed.


Through our learning we equip our students to think deeply, to act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

  • It is an honor to announce that the Calvin provost search committee has recommended Cheryl Brandsen, dean of social sciences and contextual disciplines at the college, as our next provost. In working with Cheryl, I have observed her ability to build consensus with faculty, collaborate well across divisional lines and communicate with clarity and conviction. She will provide leadership, and she will be a great member of the president’s cabinet. Her term begins on July 1, 2014, pending approval by the Calvin Board of Trustees and ratification by the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s Synod.
  • Congratulations to Provost Claudia Beversluis who has received a Fulbright award and with a small team of American university administrators will travel to several cities in India this month, visiting major universities to discuss issues in higher education. As the only representative of a Christian college, Claudia will bring expertise on Christian higher education to these conversations, and it is an honor to have her represent Calvin.
  • During interim Calvin professor Jolene Vos-Camy took 11 students to Cap Haïtien, Haiti, where they taught French at a school/orphanage. The trip was organized with the help of Calvin French alum Daren D’Ippolito, and the Calvin contingent spent two weeks teaching, exploring the area and learning about Haiti.
  • An interim class taught by engineering professors Gayle Ermer and Matt Heun on sustainable energy systems designed a solar photovoltaic system for the Rehoboth Christian School community during January.
  • The history department recently launched “Historical Horizons,” a new blog dedicated to exploring pertinent issues and ideas from trends in research, classroom discussions and more. The department invites students at Calvin, alumni and colleagues around the country and the world to join the conversation.


In recent decades our external partnerships have broadened from the college’s original ties to now include diverse connections locally, nationally and globally.

  • The international development studies program held its ninth annual Faith and International Development conference in February. The target audience is students interested in working among the world’s poor and marginalized. Many Calvin students attend, but most of the participants come from other Christian colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada. This year’s theme was “Cultivating Community: A Right to Belong.” The conference was sponsored by 30 Christian development organizations.
  • The 27th annual Calvin Symposium on Worship, sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the Center for Excellence in Preaching, brought 1,600 people representing 30 countries to Calvin’s campus in late January for three days of seminars, plenaries, panels, workshops and worship. Some of the services are already archived on the Worship Institute website with more being added each week.


In the U.S., March is often referred to as “tax time.” In the enrollment division, it’s called “financial aid season.” This year, the college has increased its financial aid budget by 11.1 percent (from $36 million to $40 million) to help make a Calvin education accessible to as many students as possible.

  • Our financial aid staff is busy giving careful attention to every FAFSA and financial aid form received. We understand that every family’s situation is unique and each deserves our best attention. If your family, or a family you know, is in the middle of the financial aid process, take heart! Starting in March, Calvin will begin sending financial aid packages to new students. We encourage you to carefully and prayerfully compare your financial aid awards—and the value of the education received at Calvin.
  • Please encourage students and families to complete the financial aid process so that Calvin can offer the best possible financial aid packages for which they qualify. Also students need to complete the admission process. Calvin cannot award financial aid until a student is admitted. Finally, please encourage students to visit campus and/or help them plan a return visit.


In Christian learning and life, mutuality in service of God and our neighbor is the means as well as the end.

  • Dr. Bill Robinson, the former president at Whitworth University and one of my mentors, is the author of Incarnate Leadership: 5 Leadership Lessons from the Life of Christ. He has agreed to speak to the Calvin community, as well as the broader business community, during two events this month. The first will be a luncheon and discussion on Monday, March 17 at noon, while the second is a keynote address and dinner that same day at 6:30 p.m. Both events have a cost. Register online.
  • This summer the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies will host its eighth biennial Genevan paleography workshop, teaching graduate students and faculty from across the United States how to decipher 16th-century handwriting. Anyone planning research in archives needs to be able to read manuscripts, and older handwriting is notoriously hard to read, so this course empowers prospective archival researchers to go forward with confidence in their newly acquired skills.

Alumni and parents

Once again, hundreds of Calvin students braved the icy-thick waters of the Sem Pond for the annual Cold Knight Club jump in mid-February (see photos online). Somehow I was in California during the plunge this year, but I am still determined to get the golden towel. It looks like I will need to stay a few more years.

  • The alumni association has funded a new blog for young alumni English majors called “The Post Calvin.” There you can read insightful pieces from our talented grads.
  • Congratulations to River City Improv, the gifted and funny troupe of Calvin alumni who do clean improvisational comedy shows locally—and coast-to-coast for alumni-and-parent groups. RCI celebrated 20 years of performing with a sold-out show in the Covenant Fine Arts Center.
  • The Calvin Parent Council met last month, discussing issues as varied as the first-year experience, our new graphic design major and what Calvin professors teach about creation and evolution. These parents are representing all Calvin families well. You can see a picture and the names of the council members online.

Student Life

Our students have a chance in March to make a difference during their time on campus and via spring break opportunities.

  • Every year spring break takes Calvin students beyond the traditional destinations of fun and sun into “trips that transform,” weeklong opportunities for students to step out as they respond to Christ’s call to “go into all the world.” This year is no exception as our Service-Learning Center is sending students to West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and more.
  • We also have our annual music department tours bringing sweet sounds to the Midwest this month. The Calvin College Gospel Choir will be touring through Indiana March 6–9. The ensemble will be visiting schools, participating in worship and performing evening concerts. The Calvin College Wind Ensemble will be in Logan, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Kingsport, Tenn.; Louisville, Ky.; and St. Louis from March 22–29, visiting schools, leading worship services and chapels and performing concerts.


We are building our endowment, prioritizing support of programs and facilities, re-imagining information and communications systems and promoting ecological responsibility on our campus, all with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. Together we will strengthen Calvin’s financial foundation for future generations.

  • The Calvin Annual Fund impacts 4,000 students a year by alleviating pressure on the college’s operating budget. If you would like to learn more about what the Calvin Annual Fund does on campus, please e-mail to receive our new viewbook by mail. To join the Calvin Annual Fund in making a difference today, please visit to make your gift of any size.


Calvin’s athletic programs are an integral part of our extracurricular options on campus.

  • The Calvin women’s swimming and diving team completed a decade of dominance last month with its 10th straight Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. Meanwhile the men won the first league title in program history. Both championships came in front of raucous crowds at our beautiful Venema Aquatic Center.
  • The performances of junior Erik Holstege and freshman Eli Holstege have been instrumental this winter sports season on the track and in the pool.
  • Calvin graduate Ryan Terpstra produced and directed a 30-minute documentary on the Calvin-Hope men’s basketball rivalry that ran on our local NBC affiliate and now can be viewed on YouTube.

It is especially in this season of Lent that we remember what it means to be retrieved from the ashes, and we learn anew to mimic Christ the retriever. As I write this I am pondering a poem written by Calvin English Professor Jane Zwart entitled “Field Notes for Psalm of Ascent. ” It is a meditation on Psalm 123:1, and it has served as a marker and a guide for me in my first two years at Calvin. The poem is worth reading in its entirety, but I leave you this Lenten season with just the last few lines:

Mimic the Christ, who must have thought our constellations
Backward but who stayed anyway, peeling death
from lepers, dusting Palestine off his disciples’ ankles.

Mimic the Christ, who must have scanned the sky
he meant to cross, then put on a cross. It was rooted where
no stars could dangle. Mimic him, the Christ.



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