Director's Desk • There’s no business like…
By Michael Van Denend '78

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

Making a difference in God’s world is something we talk a lot about at Calvin. It’s what we want our students to do when they graduate from this place.

At times, however, I think we limit this critical Christian concept of “making a difference” to areas such as missions and ministry — or perhaps expanded a little further to include teaching, social work and emergency relief.

But it just may be that integrating faith and business is among the most daunting challenges of them all, and when people do it right we ought to be all the more amazed and grateful.

Recently, a group of young Calvin alumni in business, led by current alumni association board President Brad Haverkamp ’95, began a venture called MBA@Calvin (Meeting Business Alumni at Calvin). This motivated leadership group has sponsored four events over the last year for young Calvin alumni working in the business world; three of these events were breakfast gatherings at which Christian businesspersons talked about the integration of faith and business.

Michelle Van Dyke ’85, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank in West Michigan; Paul Gordon, founder and chairman of Gordon Food Service; and Mary Vermeer Andringa ’75, president and CEO of Vermeer Manufacturing in Pella, Iowa, have been the morning event speakers.

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Listen to Michelle Van Dyke, President and CEO of Fifth Third Bank–Western Michigan, speak on "Christian Leadership in a Secular Workplace" (MP3 format; 35Mb; 38 minutes)

Given the large number of invitations businesspersons receive for seminars, luncheons and society gatherings, the MBA@Calvin planners rightly saw that Calvin could present a unique event if the topic was focused on “faith and work.” From event to event the audience grows as the word spreads among young business alumni.

Too often we see news headlines that highlight the gap between business leaders’ entrepreneurial vision and their ethical mindset. Calvin’s economics and business department, flush with new professors who have significant business experience, is mentoring dually prepared young people for service in the Kingdom.

Yes, service. That’s what being an excellent businessperson is all about. Whether that Calvin graduate works in a multinational corporation or a neighborhood family business, bringing shalom to every sector of society is a calling due our respect.

A college necessarily is engaged in theoretical study and pays close attention to academic credentials and trends. So it is not surprising that the academic world sometimes deems business-related matters as being less serious or important. Moreover, at a Christian college, the “calling to ministry” sometimes fails to recognize the important square inches to be claimed for the Kingdom on Wall Street.

Calvin’s economics and business department has been very intentional in building closer ties to business practitioners — through the strategic hiring of professors with extensive business experience and partnerships with business owners and executives. The recently formed Calvin Business Alliance is made up of about 20 seasoned business and civic leaders, convening to examine and enhance college-business ties. And the number of business internships for current students grows by leaps and bounds each year.

So while Calvin isn’t immune from occasionally overlooking business as a calling, there is plenty happening in and out of the classroom these days that acknowledges the impact Christian business leaders can have on our world.

To you alumni out there taking on the challenge of representing Christ and your alma mater in board rooms, retail stores, factory floors and other business sites: Thank you for not conceding these occupations to those who would separate purpose and profit. Your ministry is valuable and valued.