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August 30, 2002

New Buildings Near Completion

Visitors who come in the main entrance of the new DeVos Communication Center at Calvin College will first notice "the Forum" (pictured at left), a small circular area with seating for 60-80 people designed to be a gathering place for planned and unplanned discussions on politics, public speaking, poetry and more.

Adjacent to the DeVos Center is the new Prince Conference Center. Visitors who use its main entrance will be greeted by a spacious lobby area, highlighted by a massive stone fireplace, designed for groups to gather for conversation, networking and more.

Campus architect Frank Gorman says the gathering theme is no accident.

"Both of these new buildings are significant structures," he says, "The DeVos Center is filled with offices, classrooms, a theater, audio and video studios. The Prince Center has meeting rooms and 69 hotel rooms. So there will be a lot going on in both places. But we also wanted both buildings to build a sense of community. So the main entrance areas became very important focal points for bringing people together."

The two buildings will officially be dedicated October 25-26, but will be in use prior to that weekend. In fact, professors from communiation arts and sciences and political science are already moved into the 55,000-square-foot DeVos Communication Center. Classes are slated to begin in the building September 9. And events are scheduled for the 60,000-square-foot Prince Conference Center for early October, including a Kent County judicial debate on October 3.

Students and others who make use of the new buildings will be struck by both their beauty and their functionality. Near the Forum in the DeVos Center, for example, are four plasma screens. They'll be used to broadcast such channels as CNN and Fox News, but also can show scenes from classrooms in the building so that people visiting Calvin can get a taste of what life is like in a Calvin class. Upstairs from the main level are offices (including the CAS department's "pods") and labs for Calvin's renowned speech pathology program, including a new audiology booth for conducting hearing tests and increased space for Calvin's stroke rehab clinic. Interestingly that space will be so much better than the current set-up that Michigan State University is planning to offer graduate courses there, the first graduate-level courses in speech pathology and audiology available in Grand Rapids. Also upstairs are more gathering areas for students and faculty, including several lounge areas with comfortable chairs and couches and "fish tables" (so named because of their shape) which are made partly out of compressed sunflower seeds!

Technology is central to the new DeVos Communication Center at Calvin College. Home to the school's burgeoning communication arts and sciences department, which has gone from less than 30 majors in 1982 to about 350 in 2002, and the Calvin political science department, which continues to turn out public servants for West Michigan and beyond, the DeVos Center is filled with the technology that students need to contribute effectively to society after graduation.

But technology without sage guidance is an empty promise. So Calvin faculty members in the new building stand ready to help students make sense of the proper role of technology in society.

It is that combination of superb professors and a state-of-the-art facility producing graduates ready to make a difference in the region that led to a recent gift of $500,000 to Calvin from the Steelcase Foundation.

"This is certainly an important project for Calvin College," says Susan Broman, executive director of the Steelcase Foundation, "but it's also an important project for West Michigan. Calvin communication graduates are already making a significant impact in our community. Calvin's new effort will expand that impact. And so we're pleased to be able to support the continued development of the communication arts and sciences department at the new DeVos Center."

The gift from Steelcase will be used toward the almost $3 million in technology costs for the 55,000-square-foot DeVos Communication Center. That technology includes:

  • four plasma screens near the main entrance
  • a new audiology booth for hearing tests
  • a video and film theater for 150 people
  • a distance learning classroom
  • an audio studio with a "teaching" control room
  • a video studio with a "teaching" control room
  • numerous audio and video editing suites for personal and group production
  • servers and networking capabilities among all the classrooms, offices and public spaces

Calvin communication arts and sciences professor Quentin Schultze, author of the recently released Habits of the High-Tech Heart, says students need to learn technology as undergrads in order to prepare for either a profession or graduate school. But, he adds, students need to be both technologically savvy and thoughtfully reflective. "At Calvin, with this new building," he says, "they will gain both virtue and technological ability. And they will be able to answer the crucial questions about how we can use the technology to serve real human needs in West Michigan and beyond."

Calvin students and graduates are already serving needs in West Michigan, something Steelcase found compelling in making its decision to give the school half a million dollars. They looked at such things as Calvin's low-cost stroke rehab clinic, which serves patients who otherwise would go without needed care, and the many projects done at no cost by Calvin students for local non-profits, including such things as website development and training videos. The new building will allow for even more community-connected projects and for an expansion of the stroke clinic and other areas of Calvin's communications disorders program.

In fact, communication arts and sciences is one of the school's fastest-growing programs. This year the department will serve some 900 students, including about 350 CAS majors, but also majors in business, education, political science and more.

Below the main level in the DeVos Center is more tech wonder. A theater with seating for 150 people will be used for classes on film and culture and also for screenings of movies. Seating is in the form of customized theater seats from American Seating. There's also a distance learning classroom, an audio studio with a control room, a video studio with a control room and individual audio and video editing suites. All will be big pluses for students who are communication majors, including those specializing in telecommunications and business. In fact, the new building will triple the amount of audio and video editing space and quadruple the television studio space.

The Prince Conference Center will be a big plus for local groups who need flexible meeting space in a tranquil setting. The main level of the building includes not only the lobby and fireplace, but also a second lobby with two more huge stone fireplaces. The Great Hall is a 4,480 square foot meeting space that can hold up to 400 people for a banquet and about 450 people for a lecture. It can be divided into smaller spaces as well. Behind the Great Hall are smaller rooms, including a dining room that looks out onto Calvin's Ecosystem Preserve. There also is a President's Dining Room and a Board of Trustees room. Needless to say the new kitchen for the facility is state of the art.

The Prince Center features three levels of rooms with 23 rooms on each level for a total of 69. Each level offers 18 rooms with two queen-sized beds, four with a king and a sleeper sofa and one large suite, complete with a large desk and computer. Local company Billco manufactured all of the furniture for the rooms.

The two buildings, and Calvin's Crossing, the pedestrian overcrossing that spans the East Beltline and links the DeVos Center to near the Fine Arts Center on the west side of campus, make up a $25 million project for Calvin. Of that $20 million was donated via a pair of $10 million gifts to Calvin from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation.

"The DeVos and Prince families are long-time supporters of Christian education," said Calvin College president Dr. Gaylen Byker at the time of the gift (July 1998). "Their support of these two new ventures means a great deal to all of us at Calvin. We are very grateful."

Elsa Prince is a 1954 Calvin graduate. Richard DeVos is a 1947 Calvin alum and winner of the school's 1982 Distinguished Alumni Award. His wife Helen is a 1947 Calvin graduate.

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