October 2014

Leaving campus as the fall colors begin to emerge, on a crisp morning wet with dew, is difficult. I am airborne again, excited to attend an alumni event out west, but hoping, too, that the good weather, beautiful colors and high student energy levels will await me upon my return.

Last week I went to dinner on campus with members of our Student Senate and returned to find my wife at a Bible study and my daughter entrenched in her homework. It was around 8 p.m., so I took a walk to the residence halls, eventually making my way to Schultze-Eldersveld where the floors were busy with students working on challenging philosophical texts, accounting homework and more, more in this case also being a little fun and games.

One student, eager to show me the way he and his roommate had set up their furniture, ushered me into his room where we promptly found said roommate in front of a video game at which point he ruefully exclaimed: “I haven’t played a video game in a long time, and the first time I do the president walks in!” I told him I wouldn’t tell his mom, but it might end up in This Square Inch.


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

  • Biology professor John Wertz has spent his career studying good bacteria and now has been awarded $479,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue and expand that research, including funds for Calvin student researchers. Wertz and colleagues at the Field Museum of Natural History, George Washington University and Drexel University will be studying tropical turtle ants, particularly their bacteria.
  • Calvin is again ranked among the top colleges and universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This year the publication also highlighted schools that excel in undergraduate research and creative projects, and Calvin was one of just 32 schools in the nation so honored. This category recognizes places where students, mentored by world-class faculty, do work that results in an original scholarly paper or other product that can be formally presented on or off campus.
  • The new issue of Verge, a print and online publication from the college, includes a fascinating profile of political science professor Becca McBride, who is both an expert on international relations and Walt Disney! She values being at a college that rewards creativity and innovative thinking, and in January 2015 she will lead a Calvin Interim class called “Disney, Culture and Progress.”


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

  • Our on-campus art gallery is a busy place, but our downtown gallery, at 106 South Division, also is active, especially each year during ArtPrize, an international art competition that brings thousands of people to Grand Rapids for 19 days of conversation around issues of art. This year we will host nine ArtPrize artists. Meanwhile our on-campus gallery includes both an exhibition of work by our faculty as well as an exhibition of turned and carved wood by Calvin College alum Dewey Heetderks.
  • The Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) is kicking off another year of learning in community for local seniors. The organization has recently passed the 2,000-member mark. One need not be a graduate of Calvin to join. Members are eager students over the age of 50 who want to expand their understanding of God’s amazing world. See www.calvin.edu/call for more information.
  • James K.A. Smith, professor of philosophy, has been named one of three recipients of the 2014 Fr. John B. Zwers Award by the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools (MANS) Board of Trustees. The award recognizes individuals who articulate the importance of a faith-based education and who have a strong history of support for faith-based schools.

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.

  • UnLearn Week is one of the signature events of the Multicultural Student Development office, which provides multicultural programming, opportunities for intercultural awareness and interactions, anti-racism education and awareness, and Christ-centered intercultural reconciliation. The week begins Oct. 5 and provides a safe, campus-wide forum where students, faculty and staff can listen to panel discussions, watch films, participate in workshops and more, all with an eye toward increasing self-awareness of prejudices and stereotypes and increasing their knowledge of different cultures.
  • On Oct. 28, we’ll bus students to Chicago for the third annual Calvin in Chicago Career Fair. A story on our Career Development website on Ross Venhuizen ’14 illustrates the worth of career fairs and networking in helping our students land good jobs after college.
  • Calvin students have excellent opportunities to gain job experience through an internship or practicum. More than 82 percent of the class of 2013 reports having had at least one internship/practicum while at Calvin vs. a national average of 63 percent. Data from the class of 2013 also shows that 99.9 percent of respondents were either employed (71.8 percent), in graduate school (24.6 percent) or employed and seeking another position (3.5 percent). These are encouraging results!


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

  • An estimated 66,000 orphans live in China’s social welfare institutions. Recently, a Calvin course set out to gather information about best practices for their care. Calvin speech pathology and audiology professors Judith Vander Woude and Jill Bates led “Adoption and Foster Care for Chinese Children with Special Needs” and spent three weeks in China with two graduate and 18 undergraduate students, working with children and caregivers at the Zhengzhou Child Welfare Institute and with foster care families in neighboring communities.
  • Karin Maag, director of the Meeter Center for Calvin Studies and a professor of history, and Paul Fields, curator of the Meeter Center, each presented papers at the International Calvin Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, this summer. This major gathering of scholars on John Calvin meets every four years. Maag also was recently named to the Presidium (steering committee) of the Congress.

Alumni and parents

The alumni and parent relations office is in full planning mode for Homecoming and Family Weekend on Oct. 17–19. Highlights include our national champion volleyball team in action, the inspiring Calvin Music Festival and the Ambassadors Luncheon, at which we will honor our Distinguished Alumni for 2014.

  • I’ll be on hand to greet parents at the annual Family Weekend Tailgate on Friday evening and to host a Town Hall Meeting in the Covenant Fine Arts Center Recital Hall on Saturday morning. You can register and find out more online.


This fall, we welcomed more than 1,000 new students to campus. We are grateful for their presence and eager to learn with them.

  • Calvin’s 2014 incoming class of 1,026 students includes 951 freshmen and 75 transfer students. This group represents strong faith commitment, academic excellence, geographic breadth and record diversity.
  • As I walk around campus, there is definitely a sense of flourishing. The total student population this year is 3,993, and those students hail from 57 countries, 47 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. In addition, for the 2014–15 academic year, 10.6 percent of the student body is international students and 13.1 percent is AHANA students (African, Hispanic, Asian and Native-American), a record for the college as we continue to strive to be a community which reflects the biblical vision of the kingdom of God and plays a prophetic role in bearing witness to that kingdom.
  • I encourage you to think about the students you know who would benefit from Calvin’s heart and mind education. Encourage them to visit and apply soon!


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

  • Student callers have started reaching out to friends of the college by phone. If you receive a call, please take a moment to share with our students about your own Calvin connections. If you know you will be unavailable for a phone call in the coming weeks, please make your gift to support students online.


The fall sports seasons are in full swing. Follow all the action at calvinknights.com.

Barbara Tuchman, one of the great chroniclers of World War I, once observed that in war-making the people of the 20th century “commanded a technology more sophisticated than the mental and moral capacity that guided its use.” Tuchman does not say that humanity lacked knowledge. Instead she notes the lack of wisdom.

At this semester’s opening Convocation, I spoke to our students about the pursuit of wisdom. During my career in higher education my conscience has often been pricked by a series of admonitions found in 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21: “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”

We know that Calvin students will acquire knowledge and that they will be employable. But we believe, too, that the world needs more than employable people with knowledge. Recent events in the Ukraine and Syria and numerous other locales remind us that ideas have consequences and that our world needs wisdom. May God grant us the grace to receive it.



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