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January 18, 2001

Calvin Partners With Holland Home

This year, for the first time, The January Series of Calvin College could be seen away from Calvin's campus. Thanks to a $20,000 bequest from the estate of former Calvin and Grand Valley physics professor John Baker residents of the Raybrook Campus of the Holland Home, an assisted living center for seniors in Grand Rapids, could watch all of The January Series lectures without leaving their building.

Baker lived at the Holland Home prior to his death and routinely took advantage of the Home's shuttle service to the January Series lectures. But he realized that for some residents even the shuttle service was a physical impossibility. He wanted to find a way for those residents to also benefit from the Series' heady line-up of thinkers. His gift to Calvin funded a solution.

This fall Calvin and Raybroook technical gurus worked together to install an ISDN connection between the two facilties. Calvin's Brian Baas and Randy Nieuwsma worked with Bill Collin and Ted Oosterdorp at Holland Home to put a system in place that would allow the video feed from the Calvin Fine Arts Center to flow through that ISDN to Raybrook where it could then be shown on big screen TVs.

The effort proved worthwhile from the beginning. Most of the 2001 January Series lectures saw over 100 residents of Raybrook gather each day at 12:30 to watch the action in a large meeting room. Their reaction was unequivocal.

For Ann and Ken Rotman bringing the January Series to Raybrook was a welcome change. "It's very convenient," says Ken Rottman, 76. "In past years we've driven, but we never get to as many as we want to. I suspect we'll make it to more now." Ann Rottman, 73, echoed his remarks. "It's wonderful," she says, "and I'm sure we're not alone in thinking so."

Fellow Raybrook residents Bob and Marcia Brouwer agree. When asked how many of the Series lectures he makes it to, Bob Brouwer, without missing a beat, says "Every one."

Such comments are gratifying to January Series director June Hamersma, who each year looks for ways to make The January Series more accessible to those who cannot get to campus. "I think we can do more televising of the Series," she says. "We're always looking to increase the opportunities for people to connect to the lecture. We have this Holland Home partnership. We also can be heard live each day on (Calvin's) website. Those are big steps forward."

Holland Home director of development Ron Rozema also likes the partnership. "The appreciation for the January Series broadcast here at Raybrook has been, in a word, fantastic," he says. "Residents from around the campus have come forward to verbalize how grateful they feel for the opportunity to enjoy and be stimulated the lectures."

Calvin's Sally VanderPloeg, director of planned and major gifts, notes that despite the TV feed, many residents of Raybrook still do take advantage of the free shuttle to Calvin to attend the lecture in person.

"The Raybrook audience with this broadcast is essentially a new audience for the January Series, considering many of the attendees would not otherwise be physically able to attend the lectures," she says.

Vander Ploeg, who worked with John Baker's son Dennis to put the gift into action, says it's exciting to connect, and in many cases re-connect, people with Calvin. "Many of these individuals have long-term ties to Calvin and also to the January Series," she says. "For those who simply are not able to attend the Series in person any longer this has been a wonderful experience. And thanks to John Baker's gift we plan to do this for many years to come."

--written by media relations writer John Vander Meer, class of 2001

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Contact Phil de Haan.