Director's Desk • Prime Numbers
By Michael Van Denend '78

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

Knowing I can’t compete with David Letterman’s nightly “Top Ten” list, I thought I would take broad leaps between some numbers — all with Calvin significance.

The number of years Gaylen Byker ’73 has been president of Calvin College. Within that time, there’s been about 20 years worth of accomplishments, topped off by the astounding Petra exhibition of this past year. At a celebration event marking the occasion this summer, staff members recounted the impressive number of new academic programs, building projects and renovations, and clear emphasis on global education that have been hallmarks of President Byker's tenure.

The number of business internships set up by Calvin’s career development office for this semester. That’s a jump from last year’s record of 91 and an incredible education opportunity for Calvin students that most alumni did not experience. This indicates a dynamic partnership between the career development office and Calvin grads, and I encourage more alumni to contact the office and offer real-life learning to current students.

The amount of money collected from Calvin students for Hurricane Katrina relief at just one evening service of the LOFT, the on-campus Sunday worship experience. That amazing outpouring of support from college students offers a glimpse of the servant-hearts being educated here. Currently, students are gearing up for another Peter Fish drive for world hunger and poverty, which last year netted an amount similar to the Katrina offering.

Twylla Nieboer22
The number of years (plus) that Twylla Vandermolen Nieboer ’62 worked in the alumni office as records clerk. Twylla retired from her position as “Namekeeper” for Calvin alumni on September 1, and all Calvin grads owe her gratitude for protecting their computer-based information here and for caring so much about accuracy. No one loves this institution as deeply as Twylla, and we are going to miss her talent and bright smile.

The latest percentage of Calvin alumni donors to the Annual Fund. I wrote a column on this subject a couple of years ago, lamenting the 31-percent mark that we were submitting to U.S. News & World Report. While it appears we’ve come a short distance, we have miles to go to inspire alumni to support this college financially to the extent that is needed and deserved. No one who attended Calvin paid the entire cost of education here, and everyone who attended benefited from the experience — some to a life-changing extent. Using the online giving form, every alum has one more chance this year to improve on that percentage and to make a difference every day for every Calvin student. Our giving percentage ought to be well into the 40s and even 50 percent. This is the fund to which every graduate, regardless of income, can contribute — and every gift is important.

The estimated number of “official” spiritual growth activities and opportunities that are available to Calvin students during the course of an academic year. Related to that estimate is an even larger number: the 4,200 hours a semester logged by the Barnabas Team, young Christians who mentor and challenge students in the residence halls to live together as the Body of Christ.

More Online
Learn more about the Calvin Annual Fund or make a gift.

See photos of the Bykers' 10-year celebration.

Find out more about Calvin's internship program.

Read about the 2005 cross country national championship.

The latest percentage of Calvin students who are children of alumni. While the Annual Fund giving number listed previously is average for a school of Calvin’s excellence, the percentage of legacy students, although just a few ticks higher, is astronomical. This speaks of high customer satisfaction and an understanding that the education at Calvin is valuable and unique. You can keep this percentage lofty by becoming involved in associate director of admissions Tasha Paul’s Alumni Admissions Support Network at

The number of national championships won by Calvin’s cross country teams, three by the men, two by the women. And that number may already be six by the time you read this column. The Calvin men are rated first in the nation once again and should they take home another title, that would be back-to-back-to-back championships. There is no doubt that Calvin has the finest small college running program in the nation.

Numbers can communicate part of a story, but in math class I recall being asked to find the common denominator of a numerical series. At Calvin, the numbers we strive to attain are intended to point to One — Jesus Christ. As Calvin’s mission states: “We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God’s work in God’s world.”