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February 10, 2001

125 Years

As part of the 125th Anniversary celebrations Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary plan to publish a special commemorative keepsake history of the two institutions. Below are a few fun facts culled from that upcoming publication.

*Lack of money in 1876 kept Calvin from being located in Holland as was the original plan. Imagine the Calvin-Hope rivalry had there been enough money to locate Calvin in Holland as desired!

*The first class was seven men. The oldest, at 51, was seven years older than the professor, G.E. Boer (pictured above). Students with families sold their livelihoods and lived on the proceeds. They were expected not to work so as to fully be engaged with their studies.

*Tuition that first year was $52 for the year.

*Calvin's first women students were admitted in 1901.

*Chimes, the student paper, was first published in 1907.

*Around 1910 Kalamazoo and Muskegon both battled to get Calvin to move to their cities. Muskegon offered land plus $10,000, a fair sum of money in those days, but GR countered with $10,000 of its own and Calvin decided to stay put. :-)

*In 1937 the Board of Trustees chastised the faculty for not being more vigilant about disciplining students. Movie attendance was a big bone of contention in those days and would remain controversial until the 1950s. Calvin now has a film studies program that sees students spend a semester in Hollywood.

*Calvin's enrollment was 520 in 1941, dropped to 420 in 1944 b/c of WWII and then rocketed to 1,245 in 1946, a gain of over 800 students in just two years.

*In 1951 William Spoelhof began a legendary 25-year tenure as president. He shepherded Calvin through times of enormous growth and oversaw the move from Franklin Street to the Knollcrest campus. Spoelhof still has an office on campus and visits almost every day.

*The Knollcrest campus was purchased from J.C. Miller in 1956 for $400,000. It was, for all intents and purposes, in the country.

*The first classes were held at Knollcrest in 1962. But Calvin maintained two campuses, Knollcrest and Franklin, for another decade.

*In 1970 the faculty voted to broaden the appeal of Calvin to Christian students beyond denominational lines, including students from minority and disadvantaged groups.

*Mandatory Chapel attendance was dropped in 1972.

*In 1972 about 94% of the student body was CRC. Just 30 years later that number is 50%. It was in the early 70s that Calvin first started recruiting and advertising. One rejected ad targeted parents worried about drugs and the tagline was "Calvin College: One College That Is Not Going to Pot." By 1976 Calvin already was 20% non-CRC.

*In 1976 Spoelhof retired and Anthony Diekema came on board for what would be a 20-year tenure. He called on Calvin to turn outward and be "Less isolated, less protectionist, less self-serving." During his tenure Calvin added nearly 50 majors and programs.

*By 1981 Calvin was 26% non-CRC, a 20% swing in nine years. By 1991 it was 37% non-CRC.

*In 1988 enrollment hit 4,505, still a record and one not likely to be topped now that Calvin has an enrollment ceiling.

*In 1991 Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary split into two schools with separate Boards.

*In 1995 Gaylen Byker became president of Calvin. His tenure already has seen growing enrollment, additional academic programs, including a number of off-campus programs, several high-profile building projects, numerous community partnerships, new named Chairs in academic departments and much more.

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Contact Phil de Haan.