One of my special pleasures as Calvin’s president is to annually introduce the recipient of the President’s Award for Exemplary Teaching to the college community.
This year, we honored professor of philosophy Lee Hardy. He’s been teaching at Calvin for 25 years and is widely admired for his scholarship on the philosophy of work and the book based on that scholarship, titled The Fabric of This World. That book has sold over 15,000 copies and has been translated into French, Spanish and Chinese.
In addition to working as a teacher and an author, Hardy chaired the core revision committee, assigned with the daunting task of re-envisioning Calvin’s core curriculum.
The results are unique and tremendously advantageous to Calvin students. Our graduates join the work of restoration by seeking to make the corner of the Kingdom in which they find themselves better than when they arrived.
“Calvin’s core curriculum,” writes Hardy, “is divided into three components: knowledge, skills and virtues. There are things about God, the world and ourselves that we want all Calvin students to know; there are skills we want to impart and enhance; and there are certain traits of character we want to foster in the classroom and in the community at large. Each of these three components is shaped by the aim of preparing students for lives of Christian service in contemporary society.”
And what is the result of this kind of excellent, Christian, liberal arts education?
One need only read the many stories about what our students are already doing in the world to understand the importance of a college education that produces knowledgeable and skilled persons with “certain traits of character.”
Nate Knapper, a junior political science and communications major, created “Curriculum Beyond the Classroom,” an innovative mentoring program for his fellow interns in the Michigan Legislature. The program, which brought interns together with important policymakers, earned Knapper a trio of honors: the Congressman Paul Henry Integrity Award, the Daniel Rosenthal Legislative Intern Award and the Frank M. Fitzgerald Public Service Award.
Two Calvin student organizations, Love First and the Fashion Advisory Board, collaborated on a fashion benefit show to raise funds for Park High School in Grand Rapids, a place where pregnant teens can continue and complete their education. Organizer Cheryl Brown, a junior, said that she chose Park High School out of a desire to help in Calvin’s immediate neighborhood. “This year, people felt that our funds should stay home in America,” she noted. “Home could also mean Grand Rapids, and what better place to start something than at home?”
Junior Andrew Van Stee and other student organizers welcomed over 600 college students from all over North America to campus for a student-organized Faith and International Development Conference, landing speakers from Washington, D.C., and the African countries of Uganda and Rwanda. This conference has doubled in size in just one year and is totally student-organized. World-renowned speakers are brought in to inspire college students from coast to coast to think globally and to act justly in the name of Christ.
Brent Vander Hart, a senior biotechnology major, was one of only two students to be accepted into the first PhD program offered through Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), the cancer-research center based in Grand Rapids. The goal of the new VARI Graduate School is to train PhD scientists as leading scholars in cell, molecular and genetic biology relevant to human diseases. Vander Hart has an interest in “signaling pathways,” and several VARI investigators work on some form of signaling—the means by which cells communicate—in their cancer research.
Seniors Kincso Borgyos and Jeannine Keller created a three-week class during Calvin’s January interim titled “Hope Amidst an Unjust War.” The class brought two Ugandan development workers here to share their stories of doing development work in the devastating wake of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has waged a 20-year civil war in Uganda and become infamous for kidnapping Ugandan children and forcing them to become soldiers and sex slaves.
Of course, Calvin students eventually become Calvin alumni and share their knowledge, skills and virtues wherever God leads them.
Our two Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, William Garvelink and Joel Holtrop, are fine examples of how Calvin graduates use the foundation this unique brand of education gives them.
Garvelink is a senior administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is working among the people of the Darfur region in Sudan. He was recently nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Holtrop, deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, is responsible for all 155 of the national forests in the United States.
At this year’s Commencement, both of these alumni stated emphatically that the life-changing foundation for their work was laid at Calvin College.
Garvelink said: “What kinds of skills are necessary for what I do? You need to think logically, analyze situations, write clearly and make decisions. Calvin’s training couldn’t be better.”
He concluded: “And my passion for this [work] comes from my Christian upbringing and education. In my early years, I didn’t realize how important Calvin was. It is a rare commodity, combining quality education with moral guidance. When people come to work in Washington, I notice right away when they are from Calvin.”
Holtrop said: “The award has been causing me to reflect more on what my time at Calvin meant to me. Calvin formed this bedrock foundation for my upper education that has guided me well for many years in my career.”
This is the training we must provide our young people as we prepare them for a world in desperate need of knowledge, skill and virtue. As you read the stories about students, faculty and alumni on the pages of this report, I hope you will be encouraged to continue your support of Calvin, an institution that instills “certain traits of character” that God uses for great purposes in these men and women—to impact thousands and thousands of lives in His name.
Gaylen J. Byker ’73