|Calvin Celebrates 50 Years at Knollcrest
May 31, 2006
Calvin College will celebrate 50 years on its Knollcrest campus this summer with a variety of events, the first of which is slated for mid-June as part of the Christian Reformed Church's annual Synod.
A week later - on June 29, 1956 - Calvin and property owner J.C. Miller signed a formal sale agreement. The $400,000 price included 166 acres of land, what then was called the Manor House (Miller's personal home), two smaller furnished homes and several out buildings.
The only provisions which Miller wrote into the agreement were that the Knollcrest name he had given to the estate be retained in some manner and that the Manor House and the surrounding area be left as it was. Calvin agreed and on August 1, 1956 the college took physical possession of the property.
Now, on Monday, June 12, 2006, at 5:30 pm, Calvin will celebrate with Synod 2006 when it hosts a picnic for delegates on the lawn of DeWit Manor (the name since given to Miller's house).
Calvin president Dr. Gaylen Byker says Miller would have gotten a chuckle out of the picnic party for Synodical delegates, noting that the millionaire businessman was associated with some of the grandest parties in Grand Rapids during his time at the corner of Burton and the Beltline. An annual day-long event was said to have cost Miller some $30,000 each year.
"Ours will cost a lot less than that," Byker says with a smile.
After the party on the lawn the delegates will return to the Calvin Fine Arts Center for an 8:45 pm Calvin-sponsored presentation that will include historical pictures and brief remarks by two of Calvin's three living presidents: Dr. William Spoelhof (president from 1950-1976) and Dr. Gaylen Byker (president of Calvin since 1995). Former Calvin president Dr. Anthony Diekema (president from 1976 to 1995) will be traveling and cannot attend the event.
Byker says that Calvin, under the leadership of Dr. Spoelhof, and the Christian Reformed Church were visionary in purchasing the property from Miller a half century ago.
At the time, he says, some people thought both Calvin and the CRC Synod were foolish for purchasing such a large parcel of land at such a significant price. Just 50 years later Calvin has over 4,000 students, has more than doubled the acreage of its Knollcrest campus - including an Ecosystem Preserve of almost 100 acres - and the price that once seemed a princely sum pales in comparison to property values surrounding the Calvin campus.
"It's hard to imagine how Calvin would have grown as it has," says Byker, "without this campus. We are thankful to God and thankful to those who had a vision for Calvin that we have been able to prosper on the Knollcrest campus these last 50 years. And we hope to be here for many years to come."
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