Calvin hires new director of finance
Fifteen months after the top financial position was vacated and Calvin’s financial difficulties came to light, the college has a new director of finance.
Joel De Bruin, a 1990 Calvin graduate and certified public accountant, has taken over that role. After graduating from Calvin, De Bruin worked for seven years at the financial firm Ernst & Young as well as spending 15 years at Gordon Food Service (GFS).
De Bruin was well aware of the college’s $11.5 million budget gap, pending budget cuts and $115 million debt before signing on, but believes that it is worth putting the effort into Calvin College.
“I sit on the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business governing board, so I understand what’s going on,” De Bruin said. “But I’m really excited about all the programs Calvin has to offer … and how they stay consistent with the Reformed faith. I appreciate the discipline to do that. A lot of organizations slide — they started out as a Christian organization, and they’re no longer that way.”
De Bruin said the many years of technical experience in the audit department at GFS has equipped him for the director of finance position.
“I’ve had a number of different experiences in the financial arena from the technical side with auditing,” De Bruin said. “GFS was a 100-year-old company that had never been through an audit. When I was leading the general accounting area, they asked me to step out of that role and lead the team through their first audit.”
De Bruin said that the decision to take the job was informed by his wife and by prayer.
“My wife and I discussed it,” De Bruin said. “We did a lot of praying and trying to understand where God wants me to be right now. I can be in my comfort zone or I can step outside of it. And after a lot of prayer and thought, we decided this is where I should be. I feel 100 percent at peace with the situation.”
Sally Vander Ploeg, vice president for finance, said that De Bruin has qualities that fit the goals of Calvin.
“He has strong leadership skills and he’s a very effective communicator,” she said. “He’s a humble and patient person with a strong financial mind … He feels this is a calling to come [to Calvin], so he’s very encouraged about coming. He and his wife have been prayerful about it.”
Sam Wanner left the director of finance position in September 2012. During the 15-month gap in which the position was vacant, members of the finance department Sally Vander Ploeg, Todd Lohman and Ruth Witte oversaw the position.
“The team has been working extremely hard,” De Bruin said. “And I appreciate the effort they’re going through, because it’s not easy being short-staffed.”
The director of finance is responsible for a large swathe of the running of Calvin, including endowment (money that is gifted to the college) reporting.
“Basically, you are responsible for the financial operations of the college: supervising the financial services offices, payroll, accounts payable, Calvin travel service, budget and financial reporting,” Vander Ploeg said. “They are responsible for a pretty large area … They’ll have some role in risk management and evaluating risks for the college.”