Le Roy joins more than 500 participants in sem pond jump
At the 15th annual sem pond jump, President Michael Le Roy joined hundreds of students and other members of the Calvin community in a long-embraced tradition.
Clad in a white dress shirt, Calvin-colored tie, and black gym shorts, all wrapped up in a green bathrobe, Le Roy strutted down the path to the pond with a grin as students and faculty alike cheered him on.
“It’s a great tradition,” he said. “I think every president should be inaugurated this way.”
Le Roy isn’t so sure if he’ll do it all four years, though.
“Let me answer that after I jump,” he laughed. He and his daughter made their speedy exit up the hill to the warm of their home immediately upon immerging.
The 574 jumpers who braved the cold Friday afternoon nearly set a new sem pond jump record, but fell 20 participants short.
Friday marked the third-highest Cold Knight Club plunge in its 15-year history, falling just shy of the record 593 jumpers, set in 2010.
Jump all four years and students are rewarded with a golden towel emblazed with the Calvin logo and their name. Even chaplain Mary Hulst earned one, as this was her fourth year.
“It’s a crazy cool college thing,” said Hulst. “We’re modeling that life is about work and play all thrown together.”
Andrew Kromminga, Hulst’s husband, also joined his wife for his second jump.
Following Le Roy and Hulst, a few alumni board members and several hundred students stood shivering in line, most of them barefooted on the ice, waiting their turn to plunge into the three-foot deep hole.
The seniors awaiting their golden towel jumped first, and many arrived in fantastic attire. Jess Koster, a senior, stood proudly as the wind tossed about the small red cape of her make-shift superman outfit.
“It’s my kind of stupid,” Koster said when asked about her enthusiasm for the jump. “I don’t do a lot of other Calvin things. It’s my way to show school pride. Jumping into the dirty, nasty sem pond… it’s my legacy.”
Others, rather than dressing up, tended to dress down.
“Every year my house and I try to do the jump with less clothing and more body paint,” said senior Josiah Sinclair. “Last year we went in compression shorts.”
The most enthusiastic arrived at 3:30, two hours before the jump. Juniors Mark Juel, Chris Thyberg and Ben Podnar have jumped all three of their years at Calvin, Juel twice a year.
“The first year my floor did it,” said Thyberg. “Now it’s become a thing a bunch of friends do for fun.”
Sophomores and freshman shared this thrill of jumping and the incentive of the golden towel as well.
“You’re only in college once,” said sophomore Katie Moses. “It’s a community thing.”
Freshman Austin Rietveld agreed. “It’s something everyone needs to do,” he said.
And if the golden towel and school pride isn’t enough, others — like juniors Nathan Phillips, Stephen Clemenger and Abe Olsen — jump “for the stupids of it.”
The supposed stupidity of the jump, however, is also a cause for avoidance among others.
“I don’t particularly feel like freezing my butt off,” said junior Thomas Wodarek. “And I can buy a yellow towel at Target and embroider it myself.”
Sophomore Audrey Baker agreed.
“The water is slimy and nasty and gross,” she said. “But I’m on leadership so I came to support my floor.”
Her sister also jumps, so she had pledged to her parents to “document [her] sister’s moment of stupidity.”
But whether underclassmen attempt the jump or not, most agree it’s a great Calvin tradition.
“When you look at other schools’ traditions, you ask ‘why are they doing that?’” said Emily Dock, associate director of the alumni association. “Everyone else is doing the same to us. It’s nutty and great.”