The 2008–2009 school year was a remarkable one. We began the year with an antique carillon calling the campus to Convocation, which was a tradition on the old Franklin Street campus. In December 2008 we celebrated the life and legacy of former Calvin president William Spoelhof at a memorial service in the college chapel, and just two months later we selected our new chaplain.
We also dedicated, in February 2009, a center for health, fitness, sports and recreation, the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, and in June 2009 we concluded only the second capital fund-raising campaign in the college’s history.
Of course the 2008–2009 school year was about much more than the milestone moments. The hard work of higher education takes place each day in many ways: in the professor who stays a few moments after class to answer a student’s questions; in the student who takes an introductory class and realizes she has found the place to which God has called her; in the chapel student planning team practicing and praying as members prepare to lead worship; in the student serving sundaes at the dining hall; in the staff member connecting Calvin students to the local community; and in the custodians keeping clean the residence halls and academic buildings. The past school year was filled with many, many such moments, marked by men and women students, faculty and staff, seeking in all that they do to walk a path illuminated by God’s truth.
There is an African song that we sometimes sing at our daily chapel services and our Sunday-evening LOFT (Living Our Faith Together) service. In Swahili the main words are: “Siya humba ku ken yeni kwen kos.” The English translation is simply: “We are walking in the light of God.” It’s an appropriate song for any Christian college, but especially so at Calvin where above our chapel doors is a verse from the Psalms—the same verse that was above the doors of the Franklin Street chapel. The second part of Psalm 36:9, it reads, “In thy light shall we see light.”
I pray that students will think about those words often during their four years on campus, examining all that they do in the context of God’s will for their lives. I thought about them frequently in 2008–2009 as we celebrated so many significant moments for the college, including the search for a new Calvin chaplain, the position that Dale Cooper held for many, many years. We were delighted as we concluded a national search to offer the job to Mary Hulst, a Calvin graduate who has worked as both a minister and a college and seminary professor.
A longtime preacher at our LOFT services, Hulst looks forward to becoming better acquainted with Calvin students. She enjoys students who ask big questions and listen to the answers. She appreciates that at Calvin, those big questions are grounded in the firm foundation of faith built by the many who preceded us.
Although much has changed at Calvin since our founding in 1876 in a one-room schoolhouse, I believe we have stayed true to our mission: through our learning to be agents of renewal in the academy, church and society, pledging fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God’s work in His world.
Indeed the 2008–2009 school year was filled with examples of students and professors working together to bring their learning to bear on the world’s needs.
For example, Calvin senior Eric Bratt and Calvin professors Jim Bratt, Janel Curry and David Hoekema all earned prestigious Fulbright awards (funded by the U.S. Department of State) for 2009–2010, awards that will take them to Asia, Europe and Africa for their scholarship and research. In addition last year a record five Calvin students were named recipients of Goldwater scholarships in chemistry, the largest contingent of Goldwater scholars ever to study at Calvin.
Calvin education professor Jo Kuyvenhoven earned a $50,000 grant as part of the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative Planning Grant Competition to work in Sierra Leone on a project to develop higher levels of literacy in the country’s primary schools. Communication arts and sciences professor William Romanowski received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support six months of dedicated research time on a forthcoming book about American Protestants and the movies.
Calvin senior Jennifer Cairns delivered her senior honors thesis at the eighth annual Carroll Round at Georgetown University, an annual international economics conference that provides a forum for research and discussion among the nation’s top undergraduate students of economics. And Calvin junior David Westfall was named a 2009 Fund for Theological Education fellow, a national honor that goes to top undergraduates who are exploring ministry as a vocation.
Calvin’s centers and institutes made their mark in 2008–2009 as well. The Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning was a major sponsor of a conference on faith, justice and civic learning at DePaul University in Chicago. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, through its Worship Renewal Grants program, awarded almost $500,000 for a variety of worship renewal projects. The Center for Social Research at Calvin helped conduct a major survey of Kent County congregations. Calvin also celebrated the launch of its new Integrated Science Research Institute, created in recognition of the current trend in the sciences to work across traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Campus wide this past year young women and men asked big questions and listened carefully for God’s answers, for His call for their lives, seeing light in His light.
The recently concluded Campaign for Calvin College took as its foundation the phrase, “No Greater Task: Hearts and Minds Renewing God’s World.” I believe that phrase resonated with Calvin supporters because it reflects what we do daily in our work together. In the classroom, in the labs, in chapel, in the residence halls and on the playing fields, we work together to shape young men and women who will be equipped in mind, body and soul to make a difference wherever God calls them.
President emeritus Spoelhof was an inveterate storyteller, and his anecdotes generally were full of wisdom, grace and humor. I found them enlightening and inspiring. I hope that the stories in this President’s Report will enlighten and inspire you as they provide a small taste of the work of renewal taking place daily here on the 400 acres at the corner of Burton and the East Beltline in Grand Rapids, and far beyond. Thank you for your partnership with us.
Gaylen Byker, president