Director's Desk • Daughters of the King
By Michael Van Denend '78

In the blink of an eye, three retired Calvin professors-Chuck Bult, Ervina Boevé and Dick Tiemersma-passed away. They died within two weeks of one another this summer.

All three played major roles in the lives of Calvin alumni. Bult was a foundational physical education professor and coach; Tiemersma was a legendary Shakespearean lecturer (and feared blue-book grader); and Boevé began the Calvin theater program as we know it today.

Attending the memorial services for Boevé and Tiemersma in the Calvin chapel on consecutive days reminded me once again how important it is for students to contact the influential teachers and professors in their lives. We owe these mentors so much, and they deserve to hear words of gratitude from their former charges.

In the case of Ervina Boevé-"Mrs. B.," as her students called her-she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and went to heaven very quickly.

It was at the Boevé memorial service that another theme emerged from this reflective time of remembering and thanksgiving: the emergence and significance of female faculty members at Calvin.

In the eulogies for Mrs. B, it was noted that when Boevé was hired, she was one of just a few women on the Calvin staff. And though she could express her opinion in faculty meetings-which she did with élan-she was not permitted to vote by the rules of the day!

Yet her influence was undeniable, and it was remembered that she always carried herself with dignity and grace, even as her status as a full-time faculty member was not fully honored and as her artistic passion-theater-was grossly misunderstood by many campus and community members in the early days of her teaching career.

The phrase that continued throughout the service was Boevé's confident realization that she was a "daughter of the King," and as such had royal credentials that gave her courage and perseverance her entire life.

We were reminded of what great things have come from the trailblazing career of Ervina Boevé and other female faculty members in a very different way a few months ago.

Walking down the top-level hallway of the Spoelhof Center one spring morning, Calvin community members were greeted by 17 black-and-white photos of female faculty members in semi-serious poses. The collage was titled "So Far from Cheesecake: The History of Women at Calvin College."

The display was meant to play off the historical photos of the college's early days on nearby Spoelhof Center walls, predictably male-oriented. The effort also drew attention to the growing number of women on the faculty, now nearly 30 percent of the total.

"It really was a celebration of the number of senior women faculty across campus," said Janel Curry, Calvin's dean for research and scholarship.

The photos show female faculty members in their academic gowns, but their poses and accessories hint at deeper meanings. For example, music Professor Charsie Sawyer, who is African-American, is pictured in full Wagnerian garb. Colleague Helen Sterk of communication arts and sciences noted, "Wagner has been used by propagandists to support white supremacy, and Charsie Sawyer chose that image to transform it, to say that great art is not owned by anyone, but belongs to anyone."

The images of the photo display have been compiled in a calendar that will be sold at the Calvin Campus Store beginning this fall, with the sales going to benefit a shelter for women and children run by Dégagé Ministries in downtown Grand Rapids.

I think Mrs. B. would have approved. And we alumni, as grateful as we are for all of the Calvin professors who have mentored us through our educational journeys, have been particularly blessed by these daughters of the King.

Michael J. Van Denend
Executive Editor, Spark

P.S. Still thinking about sending that note of gratitude to a former Calvin professor? Good! Contact the alumni office ( if you need assistance with an address.