Director's Desk • Fifty!
By Michael Van Denend '78

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

There are a few years that stand out as major milestones for the Calvin Alumni Association.

• 1907: The association is founded by Rev. William Bode.

• 1920: Rev. Henry Beets reorganizes and reenergizes the association.

• 1965: Jim Hoekenga, the first full-time alumni director, begins his work.

• 1990: The alumni association board expands beyond West Michigan, with representatives from many states and provinces.

But perhaps the year that stands out above all the rest is 1954. That’s when the Calvin Spark was first published and mailed to all Calvin alumni.

The title of the new magazine came from the Calvin “Friendship Song,” penned by Raymond T. Hoekstra ’22 (lyrics) and Hila Vanden Bosch Russel ’25 (music) in 1922. This song, with its rousing high-note coda, served as the Calvin student theme song until the “Calvin Alma Mater” appeared in 1951.

From classroom and from college halls arises one refrain:
The Calvin spark we once have caught shall never die again.
Our Calvin alma mater dear, we raise our songs for you;
Maroon and gold will bind our hearts in friendship deep and true.

The little-known second verse, by the way, noted: We have no pipe, we have no bowl, no frats with secrets dear; but still we have our social hours and times of jolly cheer.

Why is Spark so important to the alumni association and to Calvin College?

Well, as President Byker often says, the product of any college or university is its alumni. Who these people are and what they do to use their gifts for the renewal of God’s Kingdom reveals what Calvin College is all about. It also indicates whether the college is fulfilling its mission.

Jim Hoekenga
Former alumni director Jim Hoekenga

So for 50 years the magazine has served as a “Calvin report card.” Spark not only chronicled campus happenings; it also allowed alumni correspondents to file their stories. From classrooms to board rooms, from cities to jungles, Calvin graduates gave us glimpses of where their callings have led them. Unlike the publication that shares Spark’s 50th birthday, Sports Illustrated, our subjects achieved in every imaginable field of endeavor (including athletics).

It is our hope that every issue gives readers a sense that Calvin responds dynamically to the challenges of today, training hearts and minds for lives of service. And that, after graduation, Calvin alumni demonstrate they got the message — they are, indeed, actively using their education to further God’s ways on earth.

Dick Eppinga
Former alumni director Dick Eppinga

I appreciate the fact that the alumni association board has made Spark a priority. All alumni who want to receive the magazine can get it, without regard to location or if they have sent in a “voluntary subscription” to the association. As a result, we send the magazine all over the globe, and I often hear messages of appreciation from graduates that Spark is their treasured link to an important part of their lives.

Finally, there are many important fathers and mothers and aunts and uncles who have shepherded Spark along these 50 years. To the first Spark editorial group; Wilma Westra, Berdena Looman and other alumni office secretaries; former alumni directors Jim Hoekenga and Dick Eppinga; artists Chris Stoffel Overvoorde, Bob Alderink, Paul Stoub and John Corriveau; managing editor Lynn Rosendale; and countless other writers, typists, photographers, proofreaders: thank you! Your dedication to “keeping the Spark alive” has enabled Calvin to tell a most amazing story.

Within God’s grace, the next 50 years ought to be just as intellectually and spiritually adventurous.