May 2015

In late April, Andrea and I had the pleasure of hosting faculty and staff who have decided to retire after centuries of service to generations of students.

During the evening I heard wonderful stories about life at Calvin over the years. One of my favorites came from Gerry Van Kooten, who is retiring from geology, geography and environmental studies. He recalled a time when he walked into class and two theater majors dropped some pebbles into his hand that they asked him to identify. In front of 40 students he earnestly pontificated on their shiny character (indicative of silicate minerals), their smooth finish (suggesting a long exposure to water) and more. But, as he narrowed his identification of these rocks, he noticed that they were melting in his hand. In that moment, the pebbles were exposed as chocolate, and he was exposed as a professor who’d been hoodwinked by his students.

Gerry is so typical of the faculty I find at Calvin: serious about his subject matter, faithful to Christ, earnest in his desire to serve students with his God-given competence and able to laugh at himself and enjoy his interactions with students. We will miss him and our other great retirees!

Academics

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

  • In April, Sam Auyeung, a junior mathematics major, became the college’s 16th Goldwater Scholar since 2008, a number unmatched by any other undergraduate institution over that span of time. The award is considered by most to be the highest national award given to an undergraduate in science, mathematics and engineering.
  • I am pleased to announce that we will soon launch scholarship initiatives on healthcare, justice and citizenship, and sustainability. Activities to be supported over the next four years include:
    • research internships and new learning opportunities for students
    • conferences and site visits for participants
    • curriculum and course development
    • public events
    • research materials and services
    • authorship of professional and popular publications
    • production of content-rich promotional videos.
  • Congratulations to the recipients of the faculty awards for 2015. The following Calvin professors will be honored (along with the winner of the Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching) at the Tributes and Awards dinner on May 8.
    • Advising and Mentoring: Peter Tigchelaar (biology)
    • Innovative Teaching: David Koetje (biology)
    • Student-Faculty Research: Jason VanHorn (geology, geography and environmental studies)
    • Community-Based Teaching: Kurt Ver Beek and Jo Ann Van Engen (sociology)
    • From Every Nation Award for Excellence in Teaching: Marilyn Bierling (Spanish) and Elisha Marr (sociology)
    • Teaching Excellence Award for Affiliated and Adjunct Faculty: Marlys Admiraal (English)
    • Collaborative Change: The Teaching Fellows and the Calvin Teaching and Learning Network (Claudia Beversluis, Bruce Berglund, Martin Bolt, Crystal Bruxvoort, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Herb Fynewever, Jennifer Holberg, Jim Jadrich, Irene Konyndyk, Mike Stob, Jo-Ann Van Reeuwyk, Julie Walton, Dean Ward)
  • Our Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship has supported faculty scholarship since 1977. The most recent publications are in the fields of music and history: Gospel Vocalises and Warm Ups, with Scriptures, Devotions, and Prayers (Calvin College) by music professor Charsie Randolph Sawyer and A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism (Oxford University Press) by history professor Kristin Kobes Du Mez.

Community

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

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.

  • April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and our Sexual Assault Prevention Team offered numerous events. The Broene Counseling Center also is offering a new support group for student survivors of sexual abuse or assault.
  • The Upperclass Task Force sponsored a free, upperclass student cookout at Wilcox Park this spring and an event at which dean of student development Bob Crow taught students how to change a car tire (while wearing a tuxedo!). Also associate director of academic services Dana Hebreard taught students proper table etiquette at a delicious, served meal at the Prince Conference Center.

International

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

  • If you’ve sponsored a child, you probably received pictures and letters from the sponsorship agency. Calvin communication arts and sciences graduate Dana Krol ’14 uses her skills in strategic communication to connect sponsors with children at a school in Zambia, and you can read about her story in our admissions office’s Verge magazine.

Enrollment

Join me in praying for all those who are planning to come to Calvin and for those students who are not yet sure about their plans.

  • Recruiting students to private liberal arts colleges has become increasingly challenging. 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 higher education, and colleges are struggling to keep quality up and costs down)
  • I believe that Calvin is positioned to meet the challenges I have outlined above, but we need alumni and friends to help keep Calvin in demand. Calvin’s heart and mind education is a remarkable gift to communities of faith around the world. Please consider how you can help promote the college you love!

Alumni and parents

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

  • May brings Commencement, and Andrea and I are eager to welcome parents and families. For parents of graduates, I encourage you to join us for breakfast on Commencement morning (May 23) as English professor (and mother of a graduate) Debra Rienstra reflects on this milestone. Tickets are available until May 11.
  • Commencement Weekend also brings the return of the 50-year reunion class, a reminder of Calvin’s blessed legacy. We welcome the Class of 1965 for a number of memorable events, including a re-enactment of their graduation. The full reunion schedule is online.
  • I am inspired by what our alumni do as agents of renewal in God's world. Visit the Spark alumni profiles pages on the web and see the diversity of service, talent and Christ-infused dedication in these men and women of the Kingdom.

Resources

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

  • The 2015 senior gift campaign is underway! As one class leaves, another is choosing to come to Calvin, and graduating seniors are pitching in support. Will you join with seniors in giving this spring to keep the Calvin experience affordable? Now is the perfect time to give, as we launch a dorm challenge competition to see which residence hall’s alumni can give the most support to current students!
  • We are making good progress on our efforts to put the college on a sustainable financial footing by the fall of 2017. On April 1 we made a $13 million principal payment on our long-term debt. Our overall debt total now is down to just below $90 million, and we have paid down a total of just over $26 million in principal since our financial issues first surfaced. This is truly good news, and I am so thankful to the many, many people who have helped make it happen, including our internal campus community and a variety of external supporters. In the midst of this good news, however, there is more work to do. We are proceeding in these next steps as we have thus far: in openness, in transparency, in trust and in faith, taking time to mark the good progress we have attained thus far in our communal journey, and sustained by the mission that unites us as a Calvin community.

Athletics

By the time you read this spring sports will be heading into the homestretch. It’s hard to get you good, updated sports information in a monthly newsletter, so for the latest scores, stats, schedules and results, please see calvinknights.com.

  • Sophomore Colton Wolfe recently was named to the D3baseball.com Team of the Week. A native of Eaton Rapids, Mich., Wolfe batted .684 for the week with four home runs and two doubles. For his efforts he also was named the MIAA Player of the Week.
  • We also had MIAA Players of the Week recently in women’s lacrosse. The Offensive Player of the Week was Amanda Davio, a freshman from Okemos, Mich., who scored eight goals, including the game-winner with 10 seconds remaining, as the Knights overcame a four-goal deficit to edge Albion, 15–14. The Defensive Player of the Week was Corry Remy, a junior from Zeeland, Mich., who made 13 saves in that win over Albion. Women’s lacrosse clinched the 2015 MIAA title in late April.

Almost 20 years ago, Andrew Grove, the CEO of Intel Corporation, published Only the Paranoid Survive. Grove, a Hungarian Jewish refugee who evaded Nazi and Communist occupation in the country of his birth and started his life in the United States as a busboy, described the many management concepts that were integral to his leadership of Intel as it transformed into a central player of the information age.

He believed that within every successful business are also the seeds of its own destruction. “Success breeds complacency,” he said, “and complacency breeds failure.”

I have long believed that Grove’s insight into what we might call individual and organizational pride is worth noting, but as a Christ-follower I have struggled with his pushing of paranoia as the best antidote for pride. The hope of the gospel promises more, does it not?

A recent devotional reading drew me back to the re-acquaintance the disciples had with the resurrected Jesus in Luke 24. The disciples had likely basked in the glow of a Palm Sunday entrance to Jerusalem (pride) and were now cast to the curb in the wake of the crucifixion. Jesus finds them frightened with doubts arising in their hearts, and now even Jesus is a ghost to them (paranoid).

Their situation was comforting to me and familiar. It helped me remember that whether you are a disciple on the road, a new college graduate entering the job market, a high-school senior who has just made a deposit for Calvin or a busy college president, Jesus stays our worries with his love and the reassurance of peace that only he can give: “Shalom be with you.”

Michael

 

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