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President's Message

Teaching That Lasts cont'd.

Faculty-student partnerships also contributed to a PBS prime-time television special. Astronomy students working with professor Larry Molnar took stunning photographs of the planets Venus and Jupiter using the college's telescope, a digital camera, a computer, and a special astronomy software package. Some of these images were used by PBS for the October 29, 2002, program, Galileo's Battle for the Heavens.

It is interesting to note that since the airing of that show, and thanks to a National Science Foundation grant, the college was able to purchase two new telescopes.
One was installed on campus this March; the other was installed this summer at Rehoboth Christian School near Gallup, New Mexico. The New Mexico telescope can be controlled by Calvin students via the Internet. It is exciting to think about the images that present and future faculty-student teams will find with this new equipment!

This year, the collaborative dynamic between Calvin faculty and students was evident even in our expanded facilities and special events.

It speaks volumes about Calvin's approach to teaching that the lobby of the DeVos Communication Center—a place full of cutting-edge electronic communication resources—contains a "forum" lecture area where students and faculty learn together through traditional face-to-face dialogue. The forum typifies the emphasis on faculty-student exchange. Likewise, the Prince Conference Center was built to encourage thoughtful, collaborative scholarship in a retreat setting.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls came to Grand Rapids, they arrived largely due to the efforts of former college and seminary professor Bastiaan Van Elderen. Again, there's an inter-generational teaching lesson: Van Elderen's student, Calvin alumnus and Notre Dame professor James Vander Kam, is now a leading scrolls scholar whose work benefits that of current Calvin religion professors Dan Harlow and Ken Pomykala. All four professors guided alumni and friends through the exhibit on a special February 2003 evening at the Van Andel Museum Center. Completing the educational circle, Professor Harlow took the students from his Dead Sea Scrolls class to the event with him.

It is my most important task to make certain that the finest Reformed Christian teachers make Calvin their educational and scholarly home and continue the inter-generational inspiration for service that I mentioned earlier. This is not a simple assignment. Because the professors we wish to have at Calvin are such excellent teachers, researchers, writers, and scholars, the competition for them from other institutions is often intense. And because Calvin does not compromise either teaching or scholarship, the workload for Calvin professors is heavier than that of their peers at most other institutions.

We need the unwavering support of alumni and friends of Calvin to provide faculty compensation and resources, making this campus a fertile ground for the best Christian learning and scholarship anywhere. As president, I will always be asking those who love the college to encourage our professors through faculty research grants, endowed chairs, salary and sabbatical support, equipment and technological aids, and other means. Doing so ensures the faculty-student relationship that produces the Christian leaders of tomorrow.

I understand this to be a challenge that will never go away; yet it is also our most enriching challenge. Those of you who are alumni of Calvin—or grateful Calvin parents—know well the difference one gifted and interested professor can make in a young person's life.

The beloved professor, scholar, and writer Lewis Smedes, a 1985 Distinguished Alumnus, passed away suddenly last December. Lew had just finished his latest book, a memoir titled My God and I (Eerdmans, 2002). In it, he traces his heritage and life-forming experiences, including his time as a student at Calvin. What Lew said he learned at Calvin in the early 1940s remains our guiding mission today:

But all of [my professors] owned the Calvinist ‘world and life view.' Faith in Christ not only gave us hope for life in heaven, it gave us a point of view for valuing life on earth....

This is the Calvinism [creation, fall, redemption, restoration] to which I was converted in college. It is the faith that has sustained my spirit ever since. I cherish it because it carries a magnificent hope inside of it.

Please encourage our Calvin College faculty members as they continue teaching and modeling this life-changing perspective, inspiring young minds and hearts to be about God's work of renewal in his world. Our world needs this message and these workers desperately. Together, we will send more ambassadors of grace into many corners of the kingdom.

Gaylen J. Byker
     Gaylen J. Byker
     President

 

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A National Science Foundation grant was used to purchase two new telescopes for use by Calvin faculty and students.
A National Science Foundation grant was used to purchase two new telescopes for use by Calvin faculty and students.

 

"Some images taken by astronomy students were used by PBS for the October 29, 2002, program, Galileo's Battle for the Heavens"

 

 

 

Dead Sea Scrolls
Calvin alumni were instrumental in
drawing the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit to Grand Rapids.

 

 

 

CAS professor Judy Vander Woude
Communication arts and sciences professor Judy Vander Woude (above). English professor emerita Mary Ann Walters (below, center).
English professor emerita Mary Ann Walters

 

"What Lew [Smedes] said he learned at Calvin in the early 1940s remains our guiding mission today."