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Nov. 10, 2003

Relating to Parents

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 at Calvin."

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 lines open."

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 among our 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."

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
616-526-7069 (f)