Director's Desk • Agents of Renewal
By Michael Van Denend '78

Mike Van Denend
Michael Van Denend
Executive Director, Calvin Alumni Association

Over the summer, Calvin administrators had the chance to hear what alumni, parents, pastors and students really think about the college.

Crane Metamarketing, an Atlanta-based firm, helped develop, mail and score the first comprehensive survey Calvin has done in many years. And they helped assess the results — a mountain of data! This summer, they shared a general summary of the results, did some statistical analysis and gave us the tools to do even more data mining.

Indeed, we’ll be sifting through the interesting results of this survey for a long time. Here are some of the highlights of what we heard:

1. Uplifting responses: Overall, every audience surveyed express extraordinarily positive responses about Calvin and the Calvin experience.

2. High uniformity: A strikingly high degree of uniformity in perceptions and experiences is revealed across all groups.

3. Profound legacy: The Calvin legacy is strong and deep — across generations, within extended families and also among friends.

4. Affirming worldview: All audiences consistently affirm Calvin’s distinctively Christ-centered and/or Reformed worldview.

5. Admired faculty: Descriptors for Calvin faculty are remarkably consistent across all audiences. “Challenging,” “accessible,” “excellent teachers” and “well respected” were the top descriptors.

6. Significant impact: Students and alumni repeatedly mention Calvin’s impact on their academic and personal growth and development.

7. Cost-worthy: An unusually high percentage of each survey audience sees a Calvin education as “worth the cost.”

More Online
Survey of Key Audiences
A few more results from the recent survey by Crane Metamarketing

Alumni Profiles
Stories of alumni living out their calling

Distinguished Alumni Award
Criteria, nomination forms, biographies of past recipients

We were pleased to receive confirmation on these important elements of the Calvin experience. But an interesting sidebar to this study came from the responses to the request, “Describe something that you now do (or another Calvin graduate now does) to help with God’s work of renewing all creation.”

The reason we wanted the Crane folks to ask alumni and friends that question is related to the following claim in Calvin’s mission statement: “Through our learning, we seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church and society.” We wondered: Are we actually graduating such people?

The report we got back was that alumni and friends are confused by what we mean by “agents of renewal.” Quite a few thought we meant recycling, and yes, they faithfully do that each week at home. Others were more direct; they didn’t understand how any human being could assist in the “renewal” of God’s creation.

So what is an “agent of renewal?” One way to explain the phrase is to see a picture of 16 of them. The people in the photo below are all Distinguished Alumni of Calvin College. Last May, for the first time ever, we invited all 75 living Distinguished Alumni to help us welcome the two latest recipients of the honor — Robert Swierenga and Paul Vanden Bout. Nineteen made the event.

Distinguished Alumni Award recipients
Back row: Jack Kuipers '42, Milton Kuyers '56, Gordon Van Wylen '42, Herman Keizer '65, Jonathan Bradford '71, Jacquelyn Nickerson '55, Dale DeHaan '55, Paul Vanden Bout '61, Robert Swierenga '57.

Front row: William Spoelhof '31, Juliana '45 and John '47 Steensma, Corrine Kass '50, Geraldine Vanden Berg '53, Florence Kuipers '42, Harlan Kredit '61.

All 16 of these alumni are agents of renewal. But what did they help renew?

Well, Harlan Kredit, a naturalist in his native Washington and at Yellowstone National Park, comes about as close as any award winner to the “recycling” concept. Geraldine Vanden Berg helped in the transfer of church leadership from the Christian Reformed Church to the Church of Christ in Sudan among the Tiv. Businessman Milt Kuyers co-founded the Lighthouse Gospel Project, which works to employ every available person in an inner-city church. John Steensma, who lost both arms at the age of 17, partnered with his wife, Juliana, to pave the way for rehabilitation services in Korea and the U.S. And Paul Vanden Bout directed an organization that has built the largest radio telescopes in the world, instruments that help make important discoveries about our universe.

Wherever God placed them, with whatever gifts they had and whatever training they received at Calvin College, those alumni have been assisting in the renewal of corners of God’s creation.

It is also important to remember that, whether you recycle or not, everyone can be an agent of renewal — anywhere doing anything, whether in the home, the corporate office, the kindergarten classroom, the laboratory, the nature preserve or the courtroom. Most Calvin alumni fit this bill.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12: 1-3).

There’s that “renewing” word again. Calvin didn’t invent it; Christians have been using it for a long time. But that old idea seems to us to come closest to what Calvin is about. So, with apologies to the apostle, “agents of renewal” it is!