Carol DeMots Woltjer ’64 has been raising money for Calvin College since she was five.
That’s the year her parents, Gert and William DeMots, started a birthday tradition of giving her a dollar for every year old she was — money immediately deposited in the bank to save for a Calvin education.
“I don’t think there was ever any question where I would go to school,” Woltjer laughed.
The investment was mutually beneficial. The list of alumni activities that she and her husband, Bernie ’66, have led or been involved in seems endless.
“We’ve wanted to preserve the Calvin experience for our children and grandchildren,” Bernie explained.
“We value Christian education,” added Carol, a retired school social worker. “Our education at Calvin was so wonderfully biblically based and so academically sound that we felt strongly that we should support the college in as many ways as we could.”
Their involvement started not long after they graduated, when the Jenison, Mich., couple joined the leadership of the Eastern Ottawa County alumni chapter and raised scholarship money through “Calvin coffees” at local churches.
Then, Carol asked to be part of the business fundraising drive, making phone calls for corporate support over many years. “I was in way over my head,” Carol said of asking prominent people to loosen their purse strings, “but we often got thousands of dollars.” In some cases, she found, businesses were planning to donate but were just waiting to be asked.
In the Campaign for Calvin College of the early 1990s, Carol co-chaired the greater Grand Rapids portion — no small task, with about 35,000 alumni in the area, said John Baas, Calvin’s director of major gifts.
“She recruited campaign volunteers, shared her contagious enthusiasm for the college and capably coordinated their efforts in contacting other alums,” Baas said. “If everyone stepped to the volunteer plate as readily as Carol, Calvin would be breaking fundraising records daily!”
In fact, Carol recalled, “We had a goal of $1.5 million, and we met the goal so early in the campaign that they doubled everyone’s goals!”
About that time, Bernie, the now-retired vice president of operations at Rapistan, was appointed to Calvin’s Board of Trustees.
“I’m more a business guy than an academician,” he admitted, “but my six years on the board cemented my relationship with Calvin. It was a fabulous growth experience. We learned so much about [Calvin’s] faculty, programs, philosophy, administration — I was just thrilled by it. Calvin got deep into our bloodstream.”
Bernie, who has an industrial engineering degree, also worked with engineering professor Ned Nielsen to arrange interim classes and summer internships in Rapistan’s Germany office.
The couple has established a freshman scholarship for graduates of Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, Mich. Their two children, Vince and Lynrae, both graduated from Calvin and married alumni. And now Carol is on the leadership team of the Grand Rapids alumni chapter, still raising money and distributing scholarships.
“Carol pays attention to what’s happening at Calvin, calls to offer assistance whenever she sees a way she can help and then graciously steps out of volunteer positions when Calvin staff are ready to take them over,” Baas said. “Carol is always available on an as-needed basis for special projects and is always eager to serve.”
It’s easy when you’re emotionally and intellectually invested, Carol explained. “The friendships and relationships that we established at Calvin have continued through the years,” she said. “When I was at Calvin, it was a complete picture — wonderful classmates, professors who were very interested in you. My whole life was changed in so many ways in those four years.
“We know that Calvin isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone,” Carol concluded, “but they do so many things well that we remain committed.”
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