December 2015

One of the great joys of my work is the chance to be a witness to the many gifts and talents of our students. It is my privilege to see the results of student research, performance and service, and I take every chance I can get to observe and applaud the fruits of this labor. In November our men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and women’s volleyball teams competed at the highest level in a number of excellent NCAA athletic competitions.

Right before Thanksgiving, I traveled to Ohio to watch the men’s soccer team win two tight matches, both by a score of 1-0, against teams that had been ranked number-one in the country at some point during the season. The victories were exhilarating, and I had to exercise a lot of self-discipline to keep from running on to the field when freshman Jacob Witte put the ball in the net with only minutes left on the clock to enable the Knights to advance to the NCAA Final Four in December.

We spectators see the results from the sidelines, but few of us know the sacrifice, focus, discipline and teamwork that is required to compete at the highest levels of Division III athletics. For our student athletes there are no athletic scholarships, no easy courses and little discretionary time. They compete for the love of the sport and come to love their college in the process. Thank you for supporting all of them throughout the year.


Calvin prepares the heart and mind for rigorous inquiry, always seeking God’s truth.

  • The Calvin music department recently hosted the Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition, featuring 200 university and college musicians. Six Calvin College students competed with two reaching the podium: Aaron Polet took first place in the upper college men’s division and Ashley Meyers took second in the lower college women’s division.
  • Biology major Peter Boersma presented his research on the effects of ultraviolet light on the cornea at a Harvard conference. He attended with Calvin biology professor John Ubels, who said the invitation “definitely gives us publicity in terms of people being aware of the quality of work that undergraduates at Calvin can do and the quality of work that faculty here can do.”
  • The Academic Bulletin is an email newsletter from our provost’s office that also has an online presence. It’s a treat for me each issue to see the breadth and depth of our faculty activities. For example, a recent issue included these three items:

    • Crystal Bruxvoort (chemistry and biochemistry), “Teaching on the Testing Effect” (lecture, North Central Association for Science Teacher Education, Peoria, Ill.)

    • Young Kim (history), “Cypriot Autocephaly, Reconsidered from Roman to Early Christian Cyprus” (lecture, Religion and Archaeology Conference, Boston, Mass.)

    • Carl Plantinga (communication arts and sciences), “Digital Technologies and the Future of Documentary Film” (lecture, International Conference on Documentary Images as Visual Evidence, Beijing)

    How gratifying to see the many ways that Calvin professors are making a difference as part of a dedicated community of faith and discovery.


Calvin fosters communal connections that inspire wonder, curiosity and action.

  • Last month key leaders in all of our divisions gathered with representatives from essential emergency services in the greater Grand Rapids area to conduct an exercise involving an active shooter scenario on campus. These kinds of exercises provide us with opportunities to put our emergency response plan into action and to review our roles in the event of an emergency situation, and they reassure me of the outstanding colleagues I work with and the great supporting agencies around us.
  • Our award-winning January Series ( begins next month and will feature another superb lineup of speakers, including David Brooks, one of America’s most prominent political commentators; and Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for Global Health at the Council of Foreign Relations to name just two. I’ll be attending, or watching online, many of the talks. Hope to see you there.
  • The annual Calvin Symposium on Worship is a three-day conference sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the Center for Excellence in Preaching. The conference brings together some 1,500 artists, musicians, pastors, scholars, students, worship leaders and planners, and other interested worshipers. The 2016 event will be Jan. 28-30, and registration is open.
  • Seminars at Calvin is entering its 20th year of summer seminars and has an outstanding slate of offerings for 2016, including:

    • “Bodies of Christ: Visualizing Jesus Then and Now” directed by Edward J. Blum (San Diego State University) with host James Bratt (Calvin College)

    • “Forgiving Those Who Hurt Us”, directed by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship)

    • “Cultivating Faithful Citizens in a Pluralistic Society,” directed by Kevin R. den Dulk (Calvin College) and James K. A. Smith (Calvin College)

    • “Latino Protestant Congregations Project”, directed by Gerardo Marti (Davidson College) and Mark Mulder (Calvin College)

    All seminars will take place in June 2016 on Calvin’s campus, and there is no fee to attend. The seminars are not just for college and university professors. Many pastors also take part, and alumni of the college frequently come back for a week of study during the summer. Applications are due February 15, 2016.


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

  • The Broene Counseling Center offers 21 groups (on everything from anxiety and depression to addiction), and students are experiencing positive change as a result of participating in them. We are noting a change in the campus culture in which groups are seen as a valued treatment option.
  • In mid-November the Upperclass Task Force hosted “Personal Finance: Wisdom and Common Cents” with Calvin business professor Dirk Pruis. The program was designed to help junior and senior students.


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

  • Junior Matt Raybaud, a geography and sociology double major, spent the summer mapping data for emeritus professor Henk Aay’s atlas project, “The Atlas of Dutch American History and Culture.” Raybaud took databases of information and converted them into 500 maps that Aay says should benefit researchers for years to come.
  • Professor of education David Smith was interviewed recently by the Centre for Public Christianity in Australia, and the seven-minute video provides fascinating insights into what it means to live well alongside people from different cultures. Smith is author of Learning from the Stranger: Christian Faith and Cultural Diversity.

Alumni and Parents

We are committed to building community among Calvin College alumni and friends around the world.


A community that thinks deeply, acts justly and lives wholeheartedly.

  • This year the Calvin community has taken on the shared goal of redoubling our recruitment efforts. Here are just a few examples of the cross-divisional collaboration now in progress:

    • Faculty and staff are using new “connect” cards to follow up with Fridays at Calvin visitors. Students receive a set of these cards at the beginning of their visit and pass on the cards to faculty and staff they meet. During the first week of the program, I had the pleasure of following up with six students!
    • Our student life team is revamping the student hosting model to enhance guest experiences with more activities for visitors.
    • Campus ministries is connecting with youth pastors to encourage youth group visits to LOFT (Sunday evening) services.
    • Information technology is prioritizing the installation of new software systems to improve financial aid awarding and continue nurturing relationships with prospective students.
    • Our human resources team will be using a “lean” process to streamline transfer student enrollment.

    Just as we on Calvin’s campus are in these efforts of recruitment together, you, too, can join in bringing aspiring Christian discoverers and innovators to Calvin:


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

  • In late October, we held our annual Named Scholarship Dinner, bringing together the generous donors who provide named scholarships with the 1,390 Calvin student recipients of those scholarships. English professor Gary Schmidt guided us through a wonderful evening focused on the journeys and stories of our lives. We are immensely grateful for all those who are committed to supporting Calvin’s students through the vital named scholarship program.

  • We are nearing the end of another semester, and many of us find ourselves thinking often of Calvin’s students. For them Calvin is just one stop on a unique journey—yet we have the opportunity to equip them during their time with us for lives of Christ-like service. Now is a perfect opportunity to make a gift to the Calvin Annual Fund. It takes a community of thousands of supporters to make this educational journey possible. Will you be one of them? You can make a transformational gift today.


The winter 2015–16 sports season has begun, while fall sports competed in numerous NCAA regional and national championship events (some of which were completed after This Square Inch went online).

  • Follow all of our teams, their schedules, their stories and more at Also, don’t forget that you can sign up for the Calvin Sports Report, a regular recap of Calvin games, awards and more that comes straight to your email inbox.
  • Our fall sports seasons included numerous all-conference honorees as well as six of a possible seven MIAA most valuable player awards, the first time that has happened in school history! So honored were Ben Van Scoyk (men’s golf), Zac Nowicki (men’s cross country), Lauren Strohbehn (women’s cross country), Nick Groenewold (men’s soccer), Taylor TenHarmsel (women’s soccer) and Maggie Kamp (women’s volleyball). Calvin also won four of a possible seven MIAA championships (men’s and women’s soccer, men’s cross country and women’s volleyball) this past fall.
  • Calvin senior Taylor Ten Harmsel was named a CoSIDA Academic All-American in women’s soccer. A four-year starter in the midfield, Ten Harmsel led the Knights to the quarterfinals of the NCAA III Tournament this season. Calvin student-athletes have now received CoSIDA Academic All-America honors an amazing 113 times over the years.
  • Nicole Michmerhuizen, a 2014 graduate who is now a grad student at the University of Michigan, won the recent Indianapolis Marathon and qualified for the upcoming U.S. Olympic Marathon trials. In the men’s race in Indy, Calvin grads Jon Gries and Paul Petersen finished third and fourth respectively (Petersen already has qualified for the upcoming U.S. Olympic Marathon trials).
  • Are you on social media? If so, we have lots of ways for you to keep updated on Calvin athletics. Our Calvin GameDay Facebook page is a good one to follow. Calvin Athletics on Twitter is the official feed of our sports information staff. And our sports info folks are on Instagram. In addition there are lots of feeds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for individual sports teams. Go Knights!

November 2015 will be remembered as a month of terror and horror after grisly terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris and Bamako. A few days after these attacks, I woke to photographs of white supremacist symbols and words scrawled in the snow on several cars on our campus. It was one of those days when I couldn’t escape the feeling of darkness descending all around us. Later that day faculty, staff and students on our campus rallied to denounce white supremacy, racism and hate. We did this because these ideas are blasphemy before God, and they denigrate the image of God in every person. Hundreds gathered in our chapel to listen, learn and pray. And they pledged to speak words of truth in a spirit of love and grace wherever these sins are found. By the end of the day the individuals involved in these acts confessed and expressed remorse for the harm they had done.

Speaking the truth in a spirit of love and grace is what it means when we claim to live out our commitment to be Christ’s agents of renewal in the world. We do so because we who have “walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Our hope does not reside in political ideology, our storehouses of wealth or “the boots of the tramping warriors” referenced in Isaiah 9. Instead the prophet Isaiah foretells that “a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” I pray that this comfort, blessed assurance and great hope may be yours this Advent Season.



This Square Inch is published 10 times per year. Please browse the archives or update your subscription at any time.

NOTE: There will not be a January issue of This Square Inch because of the college’s Christmas break. We will be back in your mailbox the first week of February. Until then, blessings.

Calvin College