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Calvin Honors Agents of Renewal
May 1, 2006

Calvin College has honored two area agencies with its 2006 Agent of Renewal awards.

The awards were presented last week at the 5th Annual Calvin Community Partnership Celebration.

Calvin staff, faculty, students and several community leaders, including Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, were on hand for the reception and awards presentation.

Leonard (left) and VargasCalvin’s Community Partnership Team named Peter Varga, CEO of the urban transit system The Rapid, as the 2006 Agent of Renewal, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, headed by executive director Tom Leonard, as the 2006 Agency of Renewal.

Each recipient was presented with the mosaic-framed mirror that is the traditional award of the yearly celebration.

“The purpose of this gathering is to say thank you to a couple of the many partners who work with Calvin in our project of educating for the renewal of all things by their example and by their intentional partnership,” said Carol Rienstra, Calvin’s director of community relations in kicking off the awards presentation. “We also hope to challenge each other to work even more effectively and creatively in the future.”

Both awards recognized community partners that are engaged in environmental sustainability.

Tom McWhertor, Calvin’s vice president for enrollment and external relations, made the first presentation. He praised Varga’s leadership of The Rapid (under his direction The Rapid built the first LEED-certified transportation facility in the nation) and credited him as the visionary behind Grand Rapids’ transportation future, a future that will include hybrid electric buses.

“This is really good for me. I started from humble beginnings,” Varga said when accepting his award. “I began as a cab driver in New York City.”

He spoke of his role as a means to inspire young people and quipped, “It doesn’t matter which religion you come from, to be honored by Calvin College as a Catholic is truly an honor.”

Gail Heffner, Calvin’s director of community engagement, presented the 2006 Agency of Renewal Award to the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), thanking the agency for helping the college to maintain its watershed and to promote local agriculture.

Tom Leonard, the executive director of WMEAC, accepted the award on behalf of the agency.

Countering the common wisdom that the environmental picture is bleak, Leonard said:“The world is changing very quickly. Here in West Michigan I think we have the opportunity to grow and to lead.”

Following the awards, attendees watched two videos, one about The Rapid and one about WMEAC, created by Daniel Garcia’s video production class.

“There are so many partners who help us in so many ways,” said Rienstra, “but this was a good year to focus on environmental sustainability in this community.”

~story and photo by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson