Arnie Morren '64 calls himself "a farm kid from Moline. My dad was a very humble celery and onion farmer in that black muck of Moline, Michigan." He remembers having one pair of shoes, one pair of jeans. But, he adds, "One of the best things about our early life was that my brother and sisters and I didn't know how poor we were."
So he doesn't remember hearing from his parents about the sacrifice, the cost, of sending five children to Moline Christian School and South Christian High School and then two of the five to Calvin College. For Arnie and his wife, Cindy Van Valkenburg Morren, Christian schooling was a given. Cindy's father, Cornelius, served on the boards of Creston Christian School and Grand Rapids Christian High School as well as on the board at Calvin; at the college he was also an adjunct professor in the business department for two years.
But when the Morrens married in 1965 and began raising children of their own, the cost of Christian schooling quickly came home to them.
After finishing an MBA at the University of Michigan, Arnie planned to enter the more lucrative world of tax accounting in Detroit. But then a new Christian high school in Grandville, Mich., Calvin Christian, called, and for nine years he taught accounting and business courses there.
"I really decided to teach because they offered me all the coaching jobs I could handle," said Arnie, who was a standout athlete in his own high school. Because Calvin Christian's new building had no gym until 1968, his coaching job for the first two years included driving the basketball team to practices and games. For both his teaching and coaching efforts he was paid $3,600. To supplement his growing family's income, he did tax preparations at home in the evenings.
Though he liked teaching and coaching, Arnie noticed that by May "my tie got a little tight." So summers he worked as a laborer for Nagel Construction. "I got in great shape, lost 20 pounds and made more money in the summer than I had made all school year," he said.
Every February, when Arnie got ready to sign a teaching contract for the following academic year, "Mr. Nagel would ask me to come work for him year 'round, not go back to teaching." In the spring of 1974 Arnie agreed, though under the stipulation that he would work inside, as the company's accountant.
For the next 12 years Nagel Construction prospered. In 1986 Doug Nagel was ready to retire from the company he had founded, and Arnie Morren was ready to buy it-and to grow it. Today the company includes two of Arnie and Cindy's three sons.
Arnie doesn't go in to work at 5:30 a.m. anymore, and he quits early to play golf. But both Arnie and Cindy remember the long days that put sons Bill, Bob and Bruce through Christian schools, including Calvin. And they appreciate that it's no longer possible for students to make enough money in a summer to pay their yearly tuition bill, as Arnie did.
So, because both of them believe that, in Cindy's words, "It's important for kids at 18, 19, 20, while they're maturing more, to have Christian influences, Christian mentors and maybe to meet a Christian mate," they've decided to help that happen.
Twenty students this year, five in each class, attend Calvin on scholarships the Morrens provide. Each spring, as five of those graduate, five more are chosen by committees at area high schools. Scholarship recipients again and again tell Arnie and Cindy they wouldn't be at Calvin without the money the couple provide.
The Morrens have something to tell the students, too. At Christmas Arnie and Cindy welcome all 20 to their home for dinner. They spend several hours getting to know the students. Then, before the evening is over, they make sure to encourage them to try, someday, to make a Christian education possible for others just like them.
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