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January 12, 2002

Calvin Mourns Mike VanderWal

Calvin College is mourning the death of Mike VanderWal, a sophomore from Newark, California (located in Silicon Valley on the east side of San Francisco Bay).

VanderWal died last night (January 11) of apparent heart failure while ice skating at an open-air rink in downtown Grand Rapids. The exact cause of death is still to be determined but initial reports indicate there were no drugs or alcohol involved.

VanderWal, who was skating with a group of Calvin friends, including his girlfriend, Kristin Kuzera, lost consciousness while on the ice. Emergency services were called, but VanderWal never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Spectrum Hospital.

Calvin's Chaplain, the Rev. Dale Cooper, spent the night with VanderWal's friends and family, including Mike's sister, Amy VanderWal, a Calvin senior. Mike's roommate and suitemates and other residents on Mike's floor in Beets Hall were awakened last night around 2:30 a.m. and told of the death. They then came together for a time of prayer, reflection and remembrance. Resident director Kirsten Hyatt was there and Calvin counselor Cindy Kok of The Broene Center also was on hand for those students who needed a listening ear.

"We grieve for Mike's family and friends, for all who knew and loved him," said Shirley Hoogstra, Calvin vice president for student life. "We mourn the loss of a life that carried such great promise. Yet, as Christians, we rejoice in God's promises, including the promise of eternal life. And we rejoice that Mike knew this amazing love. For just this week he and some friends were talking about heaven. And Mike said simply: 'I am not afraid to die.' What great comfort in these difficult days."

Hyatt described VanderWal as "a really nice guy" who was "kind, friendly, kind of quiet, but involved and very well-liked."

As a high school student VanderWal took part in the Facing Your Future program run by Calvin Theological Seminary. That program takes outstanding high school students and helps them explore ministry as a career option. It is open only to those who are nominated by their pastor, youth pastor, or a Christian high school administrator or Bible teacher and nominees "have a demonstrated involvement in the life and ministry of the church, possess the character and qualities for Christian leadership, and exhibit the creativity and ability to grapple thoughtfully with big ideas and important issues."

Calvin plans a moment of silence prior to today's 3 p.m. home basketball game against Adrian. That moment will be preceded by a reading from the words of Charles Wesley who years ago wrote:

No condemnation now I dread, for Christ, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown, through Christ, my own.
Amazing love! How can it be that you, my Lord, should die for me?!

We rejoice that Mike VanderWal too knew this amazing love.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)