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February 16, 2002

Calvin BOT Wraps
Robert Keeley: tenure

The 31-member Calvin College Board of Trustees concluded its winter meetings today on the school's campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The winter meeting is one of three annual sessions for the Calvin Board. The Board also meets annually in October and May.

Tenure interviews are always a highlight at the February Board meeting. This meeting was no exception.

The Board interviewed and granted tenure to 10 professors, all of whom have their Ph.D. They are: Randall Buursma Communication Arts and Sciences and Student Academic Services), Susan Hasseler (Education), Clarence Joldersma (Education), Robert Keeley (Education), Douglas Koopman (Political Science), W. Harry Plantinga (Computer Science), Otto Selles (French), Frans van Liere (History), Katherine van Liere (History) and John Witvliet (Music). Interestingly, the van Lieres share a position in the Calvin history department. Mark Gustafson (Classical Languages) was in Rome for the semester and will be interviewed by the Board at a another date.

"Faculty interviews are such a wonderful thing for the Board," says Rev. Ed Blankespoor, the secretary of the Calvin Board. "It really is amazing to talk with faculty and get a sense of not only their passionate Christian commitment, but also their remarkable academic expertise and gifts. The faculty interviews are probably the Board highlight for the entire year."

Besides the tenure interviews the Board also interviewed and approved for reappointment an additional 25 faculty members and ratified six administrative reappointments.

Another significant topic of discussion was the financial side of the college, including the setting of tuition and room and board rates for next year and the approval of an overall budget. Both the tuition and room and board increases are 5.9 percent, equal to last year and among the lowest increases over the last 25 years. Tuition for 2002-2003 will be $15,750, while room and board will be $5,485 for a total of $21,235.

Calvin vice president Tom McWhertor notes that with 85% of its $70-million budget coming from tuition and room and board, Calvin continues to balance staying affordable and having the financial resources to offer a superb academic education.

"We're one of the top-rated schools in the region, yet we also get named a best buy or a best value by many different college guidebooks," says McWhertor. "That's for a couple of reasons. One is that our tuition and room and board charges are well below the national average for four-year private colleges, even more so when you look at schools that are comparable to Calvin academically. Second, we have a strong financial aid program which serves our students and their families well."

Calvin will award almost $16 million in financial aid in 2002-2003 and over 90 percent of the student body will receive some form of financial aid, making the actual cost to attend Calvin far less, in most cases, than the $21,235 figure. In fact, the average need-based award at Calvin next year will be over $11,000.

McWhertor says that Calvin also remains committed to faculty development, including not just a competitive salary structure, but also an ambitious program of sabbaticals and research fellowships, which in turn enhances and expands the education available to students.

In fact, at its recent meeting Calvin's Board approved 27 sabbatical requests, eight Diekema Fellowships (named for former President Anthony Diekema and awarded to younger faculty) and six other Calvin Research Fellowships.

Among the sabbaticals are such projects as: mathematics professor James Bradley's work as a visiting scholar at the Laurier Center for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies in Waterloo, Ontario; religion and theology professor Christiana de Groot's exploration of Florence Nightingale's interpretation of Scripture; political science professor Douglas Koopman's book on faith-based initiatives in the Bush administration; and political science professor James Penning's study of political and social beliefs among CRC and RCA clergy and congregants. Among the research fellowships are faculty projects on such things as Lyndon Johnson and the Voting Rights Crisis of 1965 and petitionary prayer in the New Testament.

"All of these type of projects," says McWhertor, "make our professors active learners themselves and better teachers. That in turn benefits our students."

Another significant action for the Board at the recent meeting was the approval of a new Five-Year Strategic Plan for Calvin (2002-2007) which has five major goals:

  • strengthen the College's vision and practice as a Reformed Christian community of teaching and learning
  • fortify the College's role as a center for Christian scholarship
  • make the College a more effective agent of God's shalom in its educational partnerships at home and abroad
  • foster a communal environment in which the College's students, faculty and staff are encouraged and supported in their efforts to discern, declare and pursue their callings
  • enhance the College's performance and reputation by improving the quality of its services, facilities and financial base, while sustaining its affordability

The Board also attended a special Faculty/Board dinner where Calvin's Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching was given to professor of computer science Larry Nyhoff. He is the 10th winner -- dating back to the award's inception in 1993 by then-president Anthony Diekema. The award includes a one-of-a-kind medallion and provides the winner with a significant financial stipend thanks to the George B. and Margaret K. Tinholt Endowment fund, set up at Calvin by an anonymous donor in honor of George Tinholt, a former member of the Calvin Board of Trustees.

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