In the Spotlight • Harvey and Phyllis Bratt

Harvey Bratt and Phyllis Van Vugt Bratt
Dr. Harvey Bratt
Mrs. Phyllis Van Vugt Bratt

Forty-five years ago, Dr. Harvey Bratt ’48 served as the physician of Calvin’s student health services, spending one hour a day, five days a week, providing health care for a student body that numbered 1,900. He was assisted by one nurse in the health services office that was located in the basement of the men’s dormitory on the Franklin campus. Today, a staff of ten — primarily nurse practitioners — cares for Calvin’s student body of 4,300. Today, for 4,300 students, three full-time nurse practitioners offer a broad range of primary care services, including women's health exams and smoking cessation. A physical therapist provides on-site services, and mental health care is coordinated with the Broene Counseling Center. Several local physicians spend a total of six hours per week managing more complicated problems. The college has changed, and Dr. Bratt has closely observed its transformation.

But health services are not the only changes he has noticed at Calvin. Vitality of the campus and lively integration of faith, learning and living are what Dr. Bratt believes to be the most significant changes. He says, “Calvin wasn’t like this when I was a student. For instance, devotions before basketball practices were never even considered.” Today, daily chapel services that are voluntary and well attended, special Sunday evening LOFT services, Bible study groups on each floor of the dorms, and service-learning projects reside at the heart of the campus community. This is the Calvin he says is “very different,” and why he believes it is “a special place today.”

Dr. Bratt and his wife, Phyllis, have a bird’s-eye view of the college. Currently, four of their grandchildren are students at Calvin, five grandchildren have graduated from the college, and their children — four each — are Calvin alumni. Phyllis’ son, William, is a professor of history at Calvin.

Living near the college, they are very appreciative of the many interesting events available to them on campus, including basketball. Both were widowed in 1992, were introduced to each other at a Calvin basketball game, and were married in December 1994.

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In addition to resident grandchildren at Calvin, the Bratts have another Calvin connection. They mentor a young pre-medical student from Jos, Nigeria. He is also a recipient of the Dr. and Mrs. Harvey J. Bratt Medical Scholarship that Dr. Bratt and his late wife, Fran, established in 1988.

Phyllis VanVugt Bratt has also established a scholarship at Calvin. She and her children recently created a named scholarship in memory of her late husband, Ernest, who was a professor of Latin and classical mythology at Calvin from 1955 to 1977, then Calvin’s registrar until his retirement in 1987. The scholarship honors Professor Van Vugt for “pioneering the teaching of classical mythology and leading a generation of young people to grasp the value of ancient wisdom in the formation of a Christian mind.”

Today, five Calvin students are recipients of the scholarships Harvey and Phyllis Bratt and their families have established.

The Bratts, who enthusiastically acknowledge that their lives have been — and continue to be — filled with blessings, have dedicated their lifetimes to caring for others. Phyllis served as a nurse, and for many years was the director of nurses at a healthcare facility in Grandville, Mich. Harvey practiced general surgery in Grand Rapids, and interspersed this with short-term medical missions to Nigeria, Rwanda and several places in the Carribean and Central America. Although retired, he serves as a volunteer medical consultant to Christian Reformed World Missions and visits his office there for a couple of hours each day.

The impact Calvin has had on them and on their families has prompted the Bratts to support the college in two special ways: first, with named scholarships that provide financial assistance for Calvin students today; and second, with a planned gift in their will. Because Dr. and Mrs. Bratt want Calvin College to continue to provide Christ-centered education for generations of young people, they have made the college a significant beneficiary of their estate. They want future Calvin alumni to fulfill the mission of the college and, through their kingdom service, to give back to God.