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Calvin Names New Building for Youngsma
February 19, 2008
The Youngsma Center at Calvin College

Sydney YoungsmaThe newest addition to Calvin's campus, a 20,000-square foot building at 1580 East Beltline, will bear a name that reaches back into the college's history.

The building, formerly home to Heartwell Mortgage, was purchased by Calvin in the summer of 2007 and is being renovated.

This summer it will become home to the college's 55-person advancement division and Calvin's six-person human resources team (it also will be the headquarters for the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning).

Because the majority of the people who will work in the building have communications and fundraising as an integral part of their work (the advancement division includes development, alumni relations and public relations, and communications and marketing), Calvin has chosen to name the building in memory of Sydney Youngsma, an advancement division stalwart in the 1950s, 60s and 70s who was the college's first fulltime fundraiser and publicist.

Room to Move
Calvin's summer 2007 purchase also included a second building and several acres of land.

The college plans to use the smaller of the two buildings for what it calls "surge space," essentially space that can house college employees, while their permanent space is being renovated.

Calvin vice president Henry DeVries said both properties will be invaluable to the college in the decades to come.

"The bigger space," he said, "will bring together three critical offices for the college that are all part of the advancement division plus our HR team. In the past many of the people in those offices have been spread among different buildings."

DeVries said that moving 61 people across the Beltline also frees up space on the main campus. And the surge space, he said, will make planning for moves and renovations much easier.

The Ecosystem's New Pond
An additional benefit to the recent purchase is that Calvin also acquired Buttonbush Pond, located at the north trailhead of the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve.

While intimately tied to the Preserve watershed, and for many years managed as part of the Preserve, until summer 2007 Buttonbush Pond lay outside the formal boundary of the Ecosystem Preserve. With Calvin’s purchase of the Heartwell Building and the adjoining property, Buttonbush Pond now becomes an official part of the Preserve, one of only five permanent ponds on the Ecosystem Preserve.

About Sydney Youngsma

A Chicago native, Youngsma came to Calvin as a student in 1929 and stayed for two years prior to earning a degree at the University of Chicago.

After graduation he worked for a time as owner of an art gallery and then at his father's paper business.

But in 1952, just after quitting the family business, he came to the attention of William Spoelhof, newly appointed as president of Calvin College.

Youngsma accepted an appointment as secretary of development to raise $2 million over five years to fund construction on Calvin's Franklin Street campus. As part of his work, he also became the college's publicist.

A few years later, when Youngsma already had raised $1.2 million, the decision was made to move to the Knollcrest Campus. His fundraising abilities became crucial for this move. In fact by the time he retired in 1974, Youngsma had conducted 17 telethons and directly raised $14 million for Calvin.

When Youngsma died in 1994, Spoelhof credited him as one of the three people, along with Henry DeWit and John Vanden Berg, most responsible for helping to build the Knollcrest Campus, Calvin's current home.

Youngsma's own view on things, noted Calvin archivist Richard Harms, was a little different and could aptly be summed up by a line from one of his last speeches while working for Calvin: "What good is a fiddle without a bow, so let's get back to the old ballgame."

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