"God leads in mysterious ways, and sometimes what seems like a real disappointment at first became life-changing."
As a young man, Bastian Knoppers '71 had different plans for his college career. "My older brother and sister had gone to Calvin, and I didn't want to automatically do the same thing. I wanted to major in economic geography. As it turned out, my grades were below what I needed to get into McGill University. My dad suggested Calvin. He said, 'At least try it for a year, and if you don't like it, you can go somewhere else.'
"Well, I had a great first year, met some of the greatest friends and ended up loving Calvin. Then, during my second year, I met my future wife. It turned out that God had different plans for me."
Nine years after he graduated from Calvin with a business degree and nearly enough courses to constitute a philosophy minor, Bastian and Joan Visser Knoppers '72 were presented with an opportune time to start their own business.
Between college and the acquisition of the new business, Bastian Knoppers had worked for various companies in the Chicago, Ill., area, becoming familiar with the business world and integrating what he learned from his Calvin education into what he saw happening every day.
"The first few years in business, you see people who do things that compromise their beliefs and their faith-it's the tyranny of the immediate, the tyranny of the urgent. Sometimes you've got to be able to sacrifice an immediate success for doing what's right in the long term."
The Knoppers' new business was in magnetic stripe cards, the kind used for ATM cards and by credit card companies. It was 1979, and they saw a lot of potential. With help from Joan's mother, the assistance of a second mortgage and after lots of prayer, the company CardPro Services was started. "It grew from nothing into a nice, successful company," he said.
While their new business was growing, so was the Knoppers family. Bastian and Joan were raising a family of three girls in the western suburbs of Chicago. Two of their three daughters decided on Calvin for their education. "We had anticipated that some of our girls would go to Calvin, so we talked about it, and we thought that instead of sinking six to eight years into off-campus housing, maybe there's a place that we could buy," he said.
They found a house on Britton Court, not far from Calvin's Knollcrest campus. Both girls lived there during their off-campus years at Calvin, and their daughter Alexis lived in the house with her husband for two years after graduation. "It really became a family home for us," Bastian said.
In 1999, when the Knoppers' youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was entering Calvin, Bastian began to see that because of technological changes in the industry, it would be difficult to keep CardPro as a family-owned company. "I made a proposal to M&I Data Services, a division of M&I Bancorporation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for them to outsource their business to us, and they came back with a proposal to buy our company."
The Knoppers were hesitant to sell, but M&I was persistent. Then, one day, Bastian made a trip to Grand Rapids to attend a seminar for Christian leadership at Calvin. To his surprise, Dennis Kuester, chairman and CEO of M&I, was speaking at the conference.
"It was arranged for us to get together and talk. I had some idea he was a Christian before and that he was pretty committed. But one of the first things he offered when we met for breakfast was to pray together. I thought, 'I don't think I'm going to find another company with a committed Christian leader like this organization has. If we're going to be married as organizations, we ought to have similar philosophies; that's where we'll have the most reasonable chance of success.'"
At the same time that M&I purchased CardPro Services, the Knoppers were getting ready to sell the Britton Court house. "It became part of the whole giving plan as we looked at tithing on the business sale. We talked as a family about donating this property to Calvin, and we all agreed that it was a great idea."
Bastian Knoppers admits that much of God's plan for his life has been surprising, and that he has been led in often surprising ways because of the Christian education he received at Calvin. "Immediately after I graduated, I might have said that what I had at Calvin was a great time," he said. "But as time went on, I valued what I learned there more and more. . It helped me make business decisions and raise our kids. I didn't go to a Christian high school, and so I think I probably valued my education even more than people who have gone to Christian school all of their lives."
Calvin is grateful for the Knoppers' dedication to Christian education and for their continuing involvement, as Bastian serves on the board of trustees as the newly appointed chair. "The Knoppers exemplify the next generation of Christian entrepreneurs," President Gaylen Byker said. "They are willing to devote time, energy and resources to Calvin and the cause of Christian higher education."
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