Vice President Shirley Hoogstra to leave Calvin for top CCCU position

Photo by DeJonge Studio
Photo by DeJonge Studio

After serving 15 years as vice president for student life, Shirley Hoogstra is leaving Calvin College to assume the role of president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) in September, according to an email to students Wednesday morning.

Hoogstra, the first woman to serve as a cabinet member at Calvin, will also become the first female president of the CCCU, a Washington, D.C.-based higher education organization with 175 schools in 20 countries. Calvin has been an active member of the CCCU since 1981.

“Shirley will be an outstanding servant-leader for the CCCU in her role as president,” said Calvin College President Michael Le Roy. “The Council’s gain is Calvin College’s loss, but this appointment gives me great hope for the future of the CCCU.”

In an exclusive interview with Chimes, Hoogstra said she is sure her departure will not have a negative impact on the student life division. “I think that they will go on strong and not miss a beat. I hope they will remember how much I love them and how much I want the division and students to flourish.”

Her departure comes at a time of major transition and turnover among Calvin’s top officials. When the college begins its fall semester, eight of its 10 top leaders will have been in a cabinet-level role for 26 months or fewer.

A former Calvin graduate and the longest-serving member of the cabinet, Hoogstra will be the fourth senior Calvin official to leave in roughly the last two years: former Provost Claudia Beversluis left at the beginning of the month. About two years ago, former President Gaylen Byker and former Vice President for Finance and Administration Henry DeVries also left the college.

This means that every cabinet-level member will have been in a cabinet role at Calvin for less than seven years: Russ Bloem, vice president for enrollment, has been in his role since 2009, and Ken Erffmeyer, vice president for advancement, has been at Calvin since 2008.

Prior to Calvin, Hoogstra spent four years on the college’s board of trustees, as well as 13 years practicing law in New Haven, Conn. – a skill that CCCU leaders say will be useful in the new job.

“It is imperative that institutions are represented by a leader passionate about our mission, savvy when considering legal and political liabilities, and grounded in Christ,” said Andrea Cook, who chaired the CCCU search committee. “Shirley is all of these, and I have full confidence that she is the right person to lead us in such a time as this.”

With the beginning of the academic year almost a month away, Le Roy told Chimes that an interim vice president will be named in the next few weeks from among internal candidates, and a nationwide search will take place shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, Hoogstra will be spending her time commuting back and forth between her new role in D.C. and Grand Rapids where her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Hoogstra, a pediatrician, will continue working at his practice. The two have purchased a small, two bedroom apartment in D.C.

“I will not have a car in D.C. and Jeff and I will fly back and forth to connect,” said Hoogstra. “He and I have to really be together and in sync about mixing our lives up. It is a brand new adventure for us as empty nesters.”

Hoogstra told Chimes she was not seeking out a departure from Calvin, but felt called to this new role once the process began. After being nominated as a potential candidate,  Hoogstra started the official application process on May 5 and formally accepted the offer on July 17th after the board of the CCCU unanimously voted to appoint her as their new president.

Hoogstra told Chimes this new role seems to be the coming together of all her gifts, talents and prior experience.

“Christians have to be in the public sphere of ideas and publications,” said Hoogstra, “that is what Calvin graduates do. We get in there and mix things up. You are responsible for shepherding your experiences well for the kingdom.”

Hoogstra will head to Capitol Hill today to begin her new role and serve as an advocate for Calvin and other CCCU members.

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