Enjoying God's Creation
Ruth, Marvin, and Jim DeWinter
Ruth, Marvin, and Jim DeWinter

Jim DeWinter Trails

Jim DeWinter regularly rides these trails in his wheelchair. His wish is that you experience "a piece of heaven" as you travel the trails and observe God’s handiwork.

From the plaque on the Jim DeWinter Trails

The Ecosystem Preserve on the east side of campus has a 1.5-mile trail system that was recently named for Jim DeWinter. The recognition was made possible by a gift to the college from Jim and his parents, Marvin and Ruth Woudenberg DeWinter '52. Jim's frequent visits to the Ecosystem Preserve—to enjoy its beauty and solitude—prompted his parents' desire to name the trail system and also express gratitude to Calvin for this special place.

The 90-acre Ecosystem Preserve adjoins the campus of Hope Network Rehabilitation Services, where Jim DeWinter lives. It is a special place for the treatment and care of persons who have had brain injuries. DeWinter, who was severely injured in an automobile accident, also has limited mobility. With his motorized wheelchair, he enjoys the trails at his pace and cherishes the beauty of nature that surrounds him. He finds the setting an "awesome sanctuary."

Marv and Ruth DeWinter may not have known how much Calvin's Ecosystem Preserve meant to Jim had it not been for an unexpected meeting between Jim and Andy DeVries, Calvin's director of corporate development. One day early last summer, DeVries was walking the trails at the preserve and encountered DeWinter at the South Pond. DeVries asked DeWinter what he liked about the preserve, and he replied, "When I think of what heaven's going to be like, I think of this place." That special response stirred DeVries, and he wanted Marv and Ruth DeWinter to know about his meeting with their son. Weeks later, the trail system at Calvin's Ecosystem Preserve bore Jim DeWinter's name.

The Ecosystem Preserve offers educational opportunities for college students, hands-on learning for elementary and high school students, and a respite for people like Jim DeWinter—people who want to celebrate the wonder of God's creation.

Thanks to the DeWinters' generous gift, the Ecosystem Preserve has a trail system that will be sustained for many years—offering thousands of visitors the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the earth and, perhaps, to ponder heaven.

Welcoming Parents

Jim Van Wingerden
Jim Van Wingerden

"...this new position is an opportunity for me to build God’s kingdom through the spiritual and intellectual development of young people."

Jim Van Wingerden
Parent relations director

"My parents dropped me off, waved goodbye, and that was that." And as one Calvin administrator jokes, "My dad just slowed down the car in front of the campus, and I jumped out."

These memories do not represent typical transitions to college for freshmen today. At Calvin, and nationwide, today's parents are involved in their sons' and daughters' college experience. They participate in programs and events for parents of first-year students—often months before the beginning of the school year. They assist with the residence hall move-in. Once they leave campus in an empty car, they begin e-mail exchanges, cell phone conversations, and regular visits to the college Web site. Then they make plans to return to campus in a month or two for Family Weekend.

In response to parents' interest and involvement in their children's college experience, Calvin established a parent relations program in the fall of 2003. Jim Van Wingerden was appointed as Calvin's first parent relations director.

Commenting on his new position, Van Wingerden said, "Calvin was a critical experience for me personally in developing my own sense of Christian vocation and service, and this new position is an opportunity for me to build God's kingdom through the spiritual and intellectual development of young people. Parents are a valuable resource in that holy endeavor, and I am very excited to help raise the level of mutual partnership between parents and Calvin College."

This new position at Calvin is unique in that it reports to the Calvin's alumni office and development office. Mike Van Denend, director of alumni and public relations said, "Jim's work will reflect the true partnership we wish to develop with Calvin parents. On the one hand, we want to involve parents as advisers, volunteers, and donors. Yet we also want parents to feel that they are full members of the Calvin community, that clear and positive communication lines are open."

Results from recent parent surveys show that current Calvin parents are a very satisfied group. They see what Calvin means for their children; they see their children growing academically and spiritually. They see Calvin's impact, and they are willing to support Calvin as volunteers, as ambassadors for Calvin in their communities, as representatives at college fairs, and as donors.

It is our expectation that the new parent relations program will help us do an even better job of communicating with parents—listening to their joys and their concerns, and helping them stay connected to Calvin both while their children are here and after they graduate.

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