Jim Van Wingerden
has worked with thousands of parents during his 33-year association
at Camp Roger, starting with
his duties as a kitchen helper in 1970 and progressing all the way through
to his work as executive director from 1991 to the present.
So, when Calvin
College decided to create a new position to head up a parent
relations effort, Van Wingerden was intrigued. Eventually he applied
for the job, impressed all those he interviewed with and on November
3 began his new duties at Calvin. But, he says, his new job will have
much in common with his old job.
"Calvin parents are highly invested in the lives of their sons
and daughters. Calvin was a critical experience for me personally in
developing my own sense of Christian vocation and service. Mary and
I pray for that same experience for our three children as well. Many
of my friends and peers now have sons and daughters at Calvin and they
are extremely pleased with what is happening in the lives of their kids
because of Calvin. This new position is an opportunity for me to continue
the same sort of work I did for many years at Camp Roger - to build
God's kingdom through the spiritual and intellectual development of
young people. Parents are a valuable resource in that holy endeavor
and I am very excited to help raise the level of mutual partnership
between parents and Calvin College."
Van Wingerden, a 1976 Calvin graduate, also says there is significant
overlap between the communities served by Camp Roger and Calvin.
"I have served the Camp Roger community for more than 30 years,"
he says, "and the relationships I've built with parents and families
have been characterized by mutual trust. I hope that these relationships
with parents and former campers will have a positive impact on my work
The new position at Calvin is a unique one in that it reports to both
the Calvin alumni office and the development office.
"Jim's work will reflect the true partnership we wish to develop
with Calvin parents," says director of alumni relations Mike VanDenend.
"On one hand, we want to involve parents as advisors, volunteers
and donors. Yet we also want parents to feel that they are full members
of the Calvin community, that there are clear and positive communication
Calvin's Jan Druyvesteyn, director of development, says while it may
seem odd to ask parents to be donors, in the midst of their making tuition
payments, the opportunity to connect to the college as donors is one
parents have sought.
"When we survey
current Calvin parents," she says, "we see that they are
most satisfied groups. They see what Calvin means for their children;
they see their children growing academically and spiritually. They see
Calvin's impact. And they are willing to support Calvin as volunteers,
as ambassadors for Calvin in their communities, as representatives at
college fairs and as donors. We think that's marvelous. And this new
position will help us do an even better job communicating with parents,
listening to their joys and their concerns and helping them stay connected
to Calvin both while their children are here and after they graduate."
Both VanDenend and Druyvesteyn note that the increased emphasis on parent
relations with this new, full-time position reflects a national trend
in higher education.
For his part Van Wingerden is happy to be returning to a place he graduated
from and worked at for 14 years as a resident director, admissions counselor
and then assistant director for admissions.
"This opportunity to return to Calvin College is truly a blessing
at this point in my life," Van Wingerden says. "I leave Camp
Roger with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, but I'm very excited
about what lies ahead."