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  updated 5/31/01
Commencement 2001


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Below is the original May 1 news release re Commencement.

Calvin College will hold its annual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 19 at 3 p.m. in its Fieldhouse.

The 2001 Ceremony will feature the largest graduating class in school history, an appropriate cap to a year's worth of 125th anniversary celebrations.

Approximately 920 Calvin seniors will take part in Commencement this year, the 81st such conferring of four-year degrees in Calvin's 125-year history.

Calvin awarded its first bachelor's degrees in 1921 to a senior class of eight men. This year's class, the class of 2001, includes about 530 women and 390 men.

The 2001 Commencement speaker will be Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He originally had been invited to speak at The January Series, but could only come in May.

The Commencement Ceremony also will be marked by the presentation of Calvin's highest alumni honor -- the Distinguished Alumni Award -- to 1965 graduate Colonel Herman Keizer and 1955 graduate Dr. Jacquelyn Nickerson (see below for bios).

Calvin College has presented its Distinguished Alumni Awards -- intended to honor those who have made significant contributions in their field of endeavor -- annually since 1966.

Commencement actually begins on Friday, May 18 with a 5 p.m. Worship Service in the Calvin Chapel. Following that service, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., there will be a Commencement Cookout on the Commons Lawn, catered by Calvin's Creative Dining Services. There will be a concert at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center and an Education Department Teacher Certificate Ceremony at 8:15 in Fine Arts Center.

The events of Saturday, May 19 begin with a Senior Breakfast at 9 a.m. in the Commons Dining Hall. There will be a Commencement Rehearsal at 11 a.m. for all graduates. Then comes the 3 p.m. Commencement Ceremony, followed by a 4:30 p.m. Reception on the Commons Lawn. The Calvin Parent Council will hold the second annual Commencement Day Rose Sale from 1 to 3 p.m. on the Fieldhouse lawn. Roses will be sold for parents to present to graduates with all proceeds going to parent programs and campus projects to benefit students.

Chaplain (Colonel) Herman Keizer Jr -- During his early days as an Army chaplain, Keizer was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. And during what is now a 33-year military career, Keizer's strongest memories are still of his time in the field.

"Thinking about combat ministry 30 years later is still a very emotional experience," he said. "That is when you are really faced with the possibility of your death and the hard question of what it means to love your enemies."

As a young Army chaplain, Keizer was wounded by enemy fire in Cambodia for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. He also was severely injured in a 150-foot fall from a helicopter when it lost the tail rotor and began to spin wildly. Keizer was hurled out the open door.

Keizer's assignments have included work as a special advisor on the drug and alcohol program both in the United States and later in Germany. He also was involved in several major policy initiatives which helped improve the lives of Army personnel, including authoring the policy on Accommodation of Religious Practices in the Armed Services and the Army Family Action Planning Process. During the 1990s, Keizer was Command Chaplain of the United States European Command.

Since his "retirement" in 1998, Keizer twice has been called back to active duty. His first assignment was a major research project for the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army. He was one of two leaders of teams comprised of enlisted soldiers and Army research professionals who surveyed and interviewed soldiers and leaders on the current state of leadership and human relations in the Army.

Currently, he is working as an advisor for the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in the State Department. In this position he is responsible for monitoring religious freedom issues in all of Africa and the Balkans.

Jacquelyn Nickerson -- Nickerson grew up the daughter of a mother who had taught in an Arkansas one-room schoolhouse. Her mom's early life lessons inspired a life-long love for education in Nickerson. From her dad she learned a love for travel. He was a mechanic for the Pere Marquette railroad and thus the Nickerson family received free train travel.

When it came time to go to college Nickerson felt the call to travel and was planning to move to Los Angeles to attend either USC or UCLA. But just after her high school graduation her father passed away and she stayed in Grand Rapids, beginning her studies at Grand Rapids Junior College. To finish her college years, Nickerson turned to an unlikely choice for African Americans at that time: Calvin College.

"Calvin was the epitome of educational excellence," she says. "The scholarship was high and the school was so well respected. I figured I could go to an outstanding school right in my own backyard."

It was a challenge to be one of just three African Americans on the Franklin campus, but Nickerson persevered and graduated with an education degree. After graduation, she taught for five years and then went to graduate school at Michigan State. She then worked at MSU's Mott Institute for Community Improvement, developing field experiences in urban education in Detroit, Flint and Lansing. During this time, Michigan Governor William Milliken appointed her to the Northern Michigan University Board of Governors, where she eventually served as chairperson.

Now retired from MSU, Nickerson continues to stay connected to her interest in education as a speaker and consultant. She also travels and serves her church as a lay Eucharistic minister.

"My mother's prayers got through," she says. "She was a teacher; I was a teacher. We're all teachers in some way. With prayer and good teachers along the way, amazing things can happen."

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
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