May 2014

On a college campus there seems to come each spring a day when it hits community members that the academic year is almost over. At Calvin this year that day arrived on a sunny April Monday.

First, folks on two different committees reminded me that we only had a few weeks left to finish this year’s tasks. Then, a faculty member I encountered couldn’t hide a big smile, thanks to the great spring weather we were having that day, but he also confessed to a pile of grading that still awaited him after a weekend of gardening. Finally, as I strolled by Hekman Library, I noticed students busy tending to assignments and research and reading, and on my walk I also stopped to chat with a couple of first-year students I had met on move-in day last August.

One of them reminded me of our meeting and remarked with a grin about the end of the semester: “I can’t believe we are almost there.” I share his sense of disbelief, but I also carry with me a strong sense of amazement and gratitude for this gift of the 2013–2014 school year in my life and in the lives of our students, staff and faculty.


Calvin College has long valued the opportunity to produce Christian scholarship and promote the life of the mind among Christian scholars and lay people.

  • Calvin is one of just 12 institutions nationwide, and the only private college in Michigan, to receive a $104,000 award for 2014 from the Beckman Scholars Program for colleges committed to quality undergraduate research. The money will fund in-depth research experiences for students who will pursue an independent research project under the direction of a faculty mentor.
  • Abigail Leistra is Calvin’s 15th Goldwater Scholar since 2008. The award is given to undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering, and Leistra, a junior biochemistry and chemical engineering double major, says the honor “really is a testament to the strength of Calvin College’s research program.”
  • Last year, senior Dan Van Noord discovered a subdwarf B binary star (of the more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy, it’s estimated that only one million of them are subdwarf B’s). Since then, Van Noord has been leading an international team of astronomers studying the properties of the subdwarf B.
  • For Calvin College professor Bruce Berglund, sports and history are dual passions now coming together in his podcast “New Books in Sports,” which features conversations with historians, economists, political scientists, sociologists, philosophers, journalists and more.
  • Three Calvin College nursing majors were given awards at the 2014 Midwest Nursing Research Society meetings. Kendra Pennings received the Women and Childbearing Section Undergraduate Student Award, Katie Heille received the First Place Poster Award for Undergraduates and Lyndsay DeGroot was the recipient of the MNRS Undergraduate Scholarship Award.


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

  • Since 2000, the Vital Worship Grants Program of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has awarded more than 600 grants across North America for projects related to public worship and faith formation. Now, another 31 such projects, having received $300,000 in grants, will join the mix for 2014, representing congregations and schools from 31 denominations in 21 states and two Canadian provinces.
  • Just before spring break Calvin students participated as flag-bearers in the annual Cesar E. Chavez march for social justice in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood of Grand Rapids. The march was followed by a community gathering at Roosevelt Park Christian Reformed Church where speakers addressed the life and legacy of Chavez as well as immigration reform.
  • The classroom for Biology 250 (Research Methods) is the Plaster Creek Watershed, the most contaminated waterway in West Michigan. Student findings inform efforts to restore health to the creek as well as the human communities through which it passes.

Student Life

We aim to create at Calvin a vibrant community growing in truth and grace.

  • At Calvin we are addressing the topic of sexual assault through awareness and peer education led by the Sexual Assault Prevention Team. In April we heard a powerful testimony at chapel from a survivor who gave a courageous message of forgiveness and hope through faith in Christ.
  • At the Mad Farmer Food Fest held in mid-April, students celebrated faith, food, justice, community and sustainability, including breakout sessions on canning, backyard farming, composting and more.
  • Our Knollcrest East apartments are open through summer break for student housing (as well as during Christmas and spring breaks). Approximately 200 students take advantage of this option to live on campus for part or all of the summer.


Calvin is committed to a deeper understanding of diversity, inclusive excellence, cultural competency and global awareness.

  • Eric Seo is a sophomore from Duncan, B.C., who is majoring in sports management and business and spending the spring semester in York, England, where he says living in a foreign country has given him the opportunity “to grow as a person and also to grow in God.”

Alumni and parents

The season of Commencement is special for our seniors and their parents. We offer our hearty congratulations.

  • On Commencement morning, we’ll be celebrating with the seniors at a special breakfast of prayer, praise and passage. Seniors also will honor one of their teachers with the “Professor of the Year” award.
  • We also will celebrate with parents of seniors at a Parent Breakfast where we will give thanks to God for His care and keeping of our children. This year, executive associate to the president for diversity and inclusion, Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige, will be giving the keynote address from her unique perspective as parent, professor and pastor.
  • Our “senior alumni” also celebrate this time of year, with the 50-year Class of 1964 returning to campus over Commencement Weekend. We honor these alumni with a re-enactment of their graduation in the College Chapel and then note their presence with us at the Commencement ceremony. Heritage Class alumni, those who graduated more than 50 years ago, gather this year on June 20 to tell stories and learn more about Calvin. This year’s theme will connect alums to our excellent English department.
  • Finally, we are celebrating with our Service-Learning Center the 50th anniversary of service-learning at Calvin. The college and alumni association are hosting a weekend reunion for all those involved in service-learning (and that’s just about every graduate) on June 6–7. If you appreciate Calvin’s commitment to service-learning, join us!


May is a month of transition for the enrollment management division. While staff continue to work with some international and transfer students, the majority of students who will be coming to Calvin for the first time this fall have made their commitments and are scheduling their orientation activities. Please join me in praying for all those who are planning to come to Calvin this fall and for those students who are not yet sure about their plans after high school.

  • Recruiting students to private liberal arts colleges has become increasingly challenging. As I outlined in my January Series talk, colleges like Calvin are facing:
    • demographic challenges (fewer high school graduates in the U.S. Midwest each year)
    • competitive challenges (colleges and universities are becoming more aggressive with their marketing and financial aid programs)
    • price and value challenges (families are grappling with how to afford a private Christian college)
  • I believe that Calvin is positioned to meet the challenges I have outlined above, but we need the engagement of alumni and friends like you to help “Keep Calvin in Demand.” Calvin’s “heart and mind” education is a remarkable gift to students and to communities of faith around the world. Please consider how you can help promote the college you love in your corner of the world!


Together we will strengthen Calvin’s financial foundation for future generations, ensuring our capacity to invest profoundly in tomorrow’s leaders, as we have since the college’s founding.

  • You will remember from prior communications that we outlined five strategies for closing our financial gap prior to 2017. Among these strategies was the goal of raising $25 million to reduce the principal of our long-term debt. This was a daunting challenge, and I have learned a great deal about the devotion of our friends and supporters over the past seven months whom, I am pleased to report, have stepped forward and made the completion of this goal a reality. Meeting this goal means that we will be able to keep our price lower than it would have been without this support, and it allows us to preserve a high quality experience for our students. Thanks to all who have made this possible. Thanks be to God!
  • Every square inch of the world matters to God. So does every square inch of Calvin’s campus. This month we introduce Sponsor a Square Inch, an interactive giving opportunity for friends of the college. There you’ll find a map of campus and have the opportunity to select a symbolic “square inch” to support financially. Claim your square inch today!


Our spring sports are in full swing. Keep up with the latest scores, standings, schedule changes and more at our new sports website,

  • Calvin student Nydia Langill earned a spot on the Canadian national team for this summer’s Pan Pacific Para-swimming Championships. Set for the first week of August at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena, Calif., the Para Pan Pacs, noted Swimming Canada in a news release, represents the premier international meet for Canada’s best para-swimmers in 2014. Making the team is also a huge step toward qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Langill was born nine weeks premature and was diagnosed at 18 months with a mild form of cerebral palsy.
  • Double majoring in psychology and Spanish, Mary Hoogstra works as hard in the classroom as she does on the lacrosse field where she is an All-MIAA honoree. After graduation, she plans to attend the University of Michigan for an advanced degree in social work. First she plans to finish her Calvin athletic career as a hard-working defensive stalwart for an up-and-coming Calvin women’s lacrosse program.
  • Calvin centerfielder Grant Van Putten’s amazing steal of home plate caught the Albion battery off guard and broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the last inning for the Knights! The video of this dramatic finish went viral and received a shout out from ESPN and the MLB network. You can see the dramatic play and learn more about the player and his father on the mlive website.

At the end of their double header against Albion the Knights were “almost there” until Grant stole home. As our seniors draw near to graduation they too are almost there and just beginning at the same time. I regularly pray that a Calvin education challenges and supports our students to listen for the call, look for the cross and take up the towel and basin. As you read this we have about completed the spring term, and Commencement (about which I will write more in the June/July issue) is drawing nigh. We are eager for what comes next, thankful to God for his provisions in all we do and grateful for your continued support of our mission and work.



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